During National Stroke Awareness Month recognized each May, Matthew Steinmetz, director of therapy operations for Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Rock Hill in South Carolina, encourages everyone to act F.A.S.T. and know the warning signs of a stroke

If you believe you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, Steinmetz has a clear message—seek treatment for stroke, even if you may be leery to go a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stroke−the number five cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States−is still occurring, yet hospitals around the country have noted a drop in the number of stroke admissions.

“That does not mean there is a drop in the number of strokes occurring,” Steinmetz said. “It’s only proving that strokes are going undiagnosed and untreated because people are afraid of visiting hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Faster stroke treatment equals better recovery

Prompt stroke treatment can minimize the long-term effects, increase survival rates and potentially prevent a second stroke.  

“I can’t say enough that timing is crucial, and that time is from onset of symptoms to medical treatment,” Steinmetz said. “It is much worse for you to have a stroke and stay home versus worrying if you will get COVID-19 or not.” 

Patient safety is a priority across the healthcare system, and hospitals have strict guidelines in place starting in the emergency room even before admission into the hospital. 

What else should stroke survivors consider? 

After a stroke survivor is medically stable, the right care in the right setting is crucial to getting the best possible outcomes.

When it comes to patients recovering from stroke, independent studies have proven that inpatient rehabilitation is the best setting of care for these complex patients. 

A recent article published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) and updated stroke guidelines from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs both conclude that inpatient rehabilitation is the superior setting of care for patients recovering from a stroke.

Matt Steinmetz has nearly 20 years of clinical and managerial experience with a background in acute care, long-term acute care, acute rehabilitation and outpatient therapy. In addition to role as director of therapy operations, he serves as a regional preceptor for new directors of therapy operations. A native of New York, Matt graduated from The State University of New York-Downstate Medical Center with a degree in health science in physical therapy. 

Encompass Health’s Powered by Care series profiles how Company leaders and clinicians deliver on our promise of connected care and superior outcomes. 

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