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Tele-stroke brings stroke specialists to you

It’s amazing what digital technology can do these days. In our everyday lives, we can share our snapshots immediately with friends or use a webcam to both see and hear distant relatives. In a similar way, technology now in our emergency department is helping us deliver timely stroke care.

Stroke is a leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, one American dies from stroke every four minutes. Through the Tele-Stroke Program, Medina Regional Hospital now has access to Methodist Healthcare neurologists who can remotely diagnose and treat stroke patients when minutes count.

“This new network allows us to offer acute stroke neurology coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” says Janice Simons, Medina Regional Hospital CEO. “We are so grateful to Methodist Healthcare for partnering with us for this critical service. Our community can be comforted in knowing that if they experience stroke symptoms, they can get effective, efficient healthcare right here at their local hospital within minutes of arrival.”

Tele-stroke uses a video conference system and a web connection to link our emergency department to stroke specialists whenever their expertise is needed. Without being physically at the hospital, the specialists can examine and speak with stroke patients here and consult with our physicians using equipment that includes a webcam and video screen. And the specialists are available 24 hours a day. This is essential because time is crucial when someone is having a stroke.

“Through the Tele-Stroke Program, physicians can dramatically increase response time; transfers can be minimized; and patients can often receive lifesaving care faster, often remaining at or near their home hospital,” says Simons.

Most strokes happen when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain, robbing its cells of oxygen they need. A clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can restore blood flow and help prevent disability in people who have these strokes. To work best, it must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms and only after doctors determine whether the patient is a candidate for tPA. Often, making that decision requires consultation from a neurologist who specializes in strokes.

That’s where tele-stroke comes in. When a person who may be having a stroke arrives at the emergency department, doctors can activate the secure system to connect with a remote neurologist if one is not immediately available here. The distant stroke team member can see and hear the patient and emergency department doctor, and vice versa. The neurologist can do a stroke exam, review brain scans, take a patient history and work with the emergency physician. The result is a swift determination as to whether tPA or other treatments are needed.

Be a partner—learn stroke signs

Learn stroke’s warning signs, and call 911 right away if you spot them in yourself or someone else. They come on suddenly and include:
  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs—especially on one side of the body.
  • Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Trouble seeing.
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking.
  • Severe headache with no obvious cause.
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