Group of friends

Healthcare professionals are quick to respond to any individual experiencing symptoms of a potential heart attack or stroke. Immediate treatment reduces damage and saves lives.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death and stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

The Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) recognized limited healthcare access, long distances and high percentage (73%) of volunteer emergency services staff were major obstacles to quick response and immediate treatment for rural states. They joined a group of public and healthcare professionals to form the South Dakota Cardiovascular Collaborative (SDCC).

“By joining efforts, these organizations were able to consider the bigger picture for heart and stroke prevention and control across the state,” stated Holly Arends, CHSP, CMQP, program manager for Great Plains QIN. “Combining resources, tools and expertise created momentum and energy for moving forward on a complex healthcare challenge.”

Through a strategic planning process, which began in July 2016, the group developed the mission to improve quality of life for all South Dakotans through prevention and control of heart disease and stroke. Prevention and management is truly the Heart of the Matter (the clever name for the group’s quarterly newsletter).

As part of the Great Plains QIN cardiac health efforts which support the Million Hearts® initiative, Arends provides technical assistance on evidence-based practices to prevent heart attack and stroke. As a result of her work and expertise, she was chosen as one of the ten opinion leaders involved in development of the four heart disease and stroke goals for the South Dakota Cardiovascular Collaborative Strategic Plan, 2017-2021:

    1. Improve data collection
      Explore a process to identify and track cardiovascular indicators available from HIE and other nationally recognized data sources.
    2. Priority populations
      Promote the different models of team-based, patient-centered care.
    3. Continuum of care
      Develop a pilot program for cardiac ready communities
    4. Prevention and management
      Encourage implementation of quality improvement processes in health systems.


A recent survey was distributed to healthcare professionals across the state to determine the impact of the first year efforts and further develop the strategic plan for the future. Progress and planning for each goal area will be reported and discussed during the Cardiovascular Collaborative Annual Meeting, scheduled for March 8, at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell, SD.

The Great Plains QIN collaborates with stakeholder and partners to provide technical assistance, tools and resources for cardiac health and other healthcare initiatives to achieve the aims of better health care, improved health, safer care and lower healthcare costs.