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How the Angels Initiative improved the chances of stroke patients worldwide

Every 30 minutes, a stroke patient that could have been saved, dies or is left with life-changing disabilities.

Boehringer Ingelheim won the ‘Long-term marketing strategy’ category at The Drum Marketing Awards 2021 for its ‘Angels Initiative’, Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this lasting project…

The challenge

The global Angels initiative is a non-commercial promotional healthcare project that has successfully delivered the improved care and knowledge to greatly improve stroke patients’ chances of survival and living a disability-free life.

Every 30 minutes, a stroke patient that could have been saved, dies or is left with life-changing disabilities. This is because they did not receive the standard of treatment that a specialised stroke team provides; prior to the Angels Initiative, 70% of stroke patients were treated in hospitals that were not stroke-ready.

To achieve our ambition of reforming stroke care globally, we had to tackle two key issues: complexity and time. Confusing guidelines, time pressures and lack of training led to delays in medical professionals diagnosing and then treating stroke patients.

The strategy

At the start of the Angels project, our first objective was to understand the varying success rates in how different hospitals treat stroke, including those hospitals with access to neurologists and the latest medical treatments.

To learn more, our team spoke to leading experts in stroke and embedded in the hospitals that were struggling to effectively treat stroke patients, in order to understand the challenges first-hand. We discovered two elements affecting patient outcomes: complexity and time.

With confusing guidelines and protocols, and without adequate training even the most motivated medical professionals and institutions suffered from decision paralysis. In addition, a lack of time added to this complexity: over-worked and under-resourced doctors prioritised seeing their patients, not developing new projects or protocols.

Our creative breakthrough: to solve this complexity, create time and save lives. We came to the conclusion the most effective way to achieve our ambitions to reform stroke care globally was to provide the experts and resources to educate and empower medical professionals.

The delivery

Our long-term aims to provide better care for stroke patients was built on 5 pillars of success:

Free dedicated stroke experts (now over 140 worldwide in 122 countries) – Experts are brought into hospitals to solve complexity and time issues, provide protocols, offer training, share guidelines and drive implementation. Experts in medical pathway optimisation, they are embedded in hospitals and are seen as ‘part of the team’ and can customise protocols according to local situations. They also act as champions; inspiring and supporting stroke teams and empowering them to deliver better patient outcomes.

Comprehensive, centralised and streamlined resources - Offered in 12 languages; training and protocols; including analogue checklists and inventories, patient bracelets (800,000 provided to date), imaging software and Point of Care devices.

The free Angels training platform - Leading stroke experts contribute their knowledge to multimedia resources including digital patient simulations, videos, expert masterclasses, workshops, panel discussion videos and a 200-hour stroke nurse certification course (over 9000 qualified to date)

The Angels community - A place to recognise, support and celebrate the shared efforts and success stories of members, now numbering over 50,000 with an average of 40 new members per day. It empowers stroke teams, facilitates best practice and knowledge-sharing and offers stroke professionals a shared identity–a global community that is bigger than themselves.

Quality monitoring: tracking progress - Using European Stroke Association (ESO) benchmarks, we recognise and celebrate progress with global Excellence Awards to reward commitment and also continue to drive long-term change.So far 1400 hospitals have received awards, including 301 hospitals awarded Diamond status.

The results

This year 14.5 million people will have a stroke and 5.5 million people will die as a result. Yet in the past 5 years, almost 6 million patients have been treated in Angels hospitals around the world, including over 300,000 in Europe alone.

In just 5 years, the Angels Initiative has become the world’s biggest stroke community, with 50,000 registered users, 9,000 newly qualified stroke nurses, from 5000+ stroke-ready hospitals in 122 countries. These extraordinary numbers exceed our initial target by 233%.

The Angels Initiative is now treating 2,500,000 patients annually with hospitals achieving 50%+ reduction in door-to-needle times and doubling of treatment rates every year. Having established a supportive and mutually empowering online community of stroke specialists, the Angels educational platform and the strength of our global network has become even more important during the pandemic, with members sharing lifesaving public health messages about seeking immediate medical help for anyone experiencing stroke.

We continuously expand to underserved communities around the world, most recently Ghana and Nepal. Both these countries are currently without a single hospital that can treat acute stroke patients.

The Angels Initiative is endorsed by the World Stroke Organisation and the European Stroke Organisation and is supported by over 50 national stroke societies and organisations.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021. Find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open and don’t forget to visit our new interactive calendar.

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