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Telemedicine program connects remote stroke patients with neurologists

When someone is having a stroke, every second counts. Every moment without proper care increases the chances of severe damage to the brain and permanent loss of function, cognition, even life. Kettering Health Network’s TeleStroke program gets the specialist to the patient within moments.

Telemedicine has become one of the most useful tools in stroke care. One example is TeleStroke, which uses advanced video and Internet technology to allow a patient at an outlying hospital to be treated by a neurologist or other specialist located miles away.

Using a program similar to Skype, doctors and patients can see and speak to each other in real time, allowing for direct examination and communication immediately after the patient is brought to the emergency facility. A highly trained staff supports the physician on the patient side, as test results, treatment instructions, and other vital information are instantly exchanged.

Megan Smith, RN, stroke program coordinator for Kettering Medical Center, Sycamore Medical Center and Kettering Health Network Emergency Franklin, described how the process works.

“The neurologist at one location calls the attending physician at the remote site, and they discuss the patient’s situation while a cart with a tablet computer is rolled into the patient’s room,” Smith explained. “The neurologist then does a full examination of the patient remotely to get them qualified for thrombolytics (the treatment used to dissolve dangerous blood clots). This allows patients to be treated far more quickly than if the specialist had to come out to the rural hospital.”

The patient is later seen in-person by the neurologist, but the initial danger is mitigated, and chances of recovery are dramatically increased because of the availability of TeleStroke.

Connecting stroke patients with neurologists, right from the Emergency Room

One of the Kettering Health Network physicians readily using this technology for stroke care is Timothy Schoonover, DO,  medical director of the Kettering Health Network stroke program. He explained that this type of technology has given him the ability to assess patients far more quickly than if they had to be transported from the primary facility or if he traveled to them.

“TeleStroke is an advancement that allows us to be accessible to patients who would not have special expertise in a timely manner without a transfer. We primarily use TeleStroke for the evaluation of ER patients who have an acute stroke,” he explained. “The speed of access of our evaluation is the key to the benefit of this technology. We have our iPads and can sign in from anywhere, evaluating a patient within just a few minutes.”

The outcomes are quite good – Kettering Health Network has found that patients do just as well with TeleStroke as with an in-person evaluation. Having immediate access also helps the physicians better determine if a patient needs to be transferred to a specialty facility or if treatment can be administered at the patient’s location.

TeleStroke treatment is a team effort, with specialists and experts working together for the common good of the patient in every respect. Since the Emergency Department staff at the various facilities provide vitals and carry out instructions, Dr. Schoonover credits them with much of that success.

The patients’ response to this technology has been greatly positive. Telemedicine, in general, is becoming more common and provides a proven, effective way to do that without delay.

TeleStroke is invaluable when seconds count during an emergency. Underserved areas now have immediate access to specialty care, without the loss of critical time required for transportation. The technology is effective and secure, meeting all privacy standards established by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

All of the Kettering Health Network freestanding emergency departments have TeleStroke capability – Preble, Franklin, and Huber Heights, as well as those at Greene Memorial Hospital and Soin Medical Center. Once open, the facilities in Troy and Middletown will have this technology available, as well.

As always, if you experience symptoms of a stroke, you should see immediate emergency care. If you’d like more information about the telemedicine options available for Kettering Health Network stroke patients, call 1-844-211-5482.