DALLAS and OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois, March 6, 2019 – The nation’s two leading accreditation and certification organizations announce two new hospital certification programs to improve the systems of care for heart attack patients and save more lives from cardiovascular disease. 

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, and The Joint Commission, the nation’s largest independent healthcare evaluation organization, have developed the new certifications to establish comprehensive standards and evaluation methods for cardiac and stroke hospital programs based on evidence-based guidelines and best practices that support consistent and high-quality patient care.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.9 million deaths each year. While nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular diseases continue to be a woman’s greatest health threat, claiming the lives of one in three women.

The Primary Heart Attack Center (PHAC) and the Acute Heart Attack Ready (AHAR) certifications will be available July 1, 2019 to all hospitals, including freestanding emergency departments operated under a hospital. These certifications add to a growing portfolio of performance improvement programs offered by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association for hospitals committed to consistent, high quality care for stroke and cardiac patients.

“Together, with the American Heart Association, we are pleased to offer these new certification programs to hospitals across the country treating heart attack patients,” says David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president, Division of Health Care Quality Evaluation, The Joint Commission. “These certifications will recognize hospitals that are following the latest -evidence-based guidelines for heart attack care and continuously working to improve their care for heart attack patients.”

The certifications will replace the American Heart Association’s existing Mission: Lifeline Heart Attack Accreditations for STEMI Receiving and Referring Centers. The certifications, based on clinical practice guidelines published in the Association’s journal Circulation, will standardize and improve coordinated systems of care across settings for identification, assessment, monitoring, management, data sharing and performance improvement for multidisciplinary ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attack care.

The American Heart Association and The Joint Commission combine expertise in formalizing systems of hospital and pre-hospital care and implementing structure to promote patients receiving the right care from the right facility at the right time. Translating the latest evidence-based science to the bedside quickly and efficiently helps save more lives and improve patients' quality of life, through standardized, objective, unbiased assessments, while promoting excellence in healthcare globally.

“Research shows that patient outcomes improve when medical professionals implement the most up-to-date, evidence-based treatment guidelines,” says Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.  “The Association is committed to operationalize guidelines more rapidly with every healthcare stakeholder along the healthcare continuum and our work with The Joint Commission is designed to benefit patients sooner to positively impact the cardiovascular health of the populations that hospitals serve.”

The PHAC and AHAR certifications focus on symptom onset and first medical contact (pre-hospital and upon hospital arrival), emergency medical services, the emergency department, as well as catheterization laboratories and inpatient settings.

Eligibility for PHAC certification requires hospitals to provide onsite primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) coverage for STEMI patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The AHAR certification is recommended for hospitals without onsite primary PCI coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An AHAR hospital may transfer STEMI patients to a primary PCI-capable hospital for care.

The prepublication versions of the certification standards are available on the Prepublication Standards section of The Joint Commission website until June 30, 2019.

The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association collaboratively offer several cardiac and stroke certification programs to recognize hospitals that meet rigorous standards based on proven clinical practice guidelines. Other certifications from the two organizations include Primary Stroke Center Certification, Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification, Acute Stroke Ready Certification, Thrombectomy-capable Stroke Center Certification, Advanced Certification for Heart Failure and Comprehensive Cardiac Center Certification. For more information, visit The Joint Commission website.


About The Joint Commission

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at www.jointcommission.org.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For American Heart Association Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173

Karen Springs: 214-706-4831


For The Joint Commission Media Inquiries:      

Maureen Lyons

Corporate Communications