When a stroke occurs, every second counts. Having access to health care professionals who can identify the signs of stroke and administer treatment quickly can mean the difference between full recovery and long-term disability.
Fortunately, stroke patients at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital (NNRH) now have immediate access to highly specialized vascular neurologists as the result of a partnership between NNRH and University of Utah Health.
Through this network, emergency department physicians have the ability to consult in real time with board-certified neurologists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using telemedicine equipment to determine the best treatment options for stroke patients.
Telemedicine programs improve the quality of care for patients outside of urban areas by allowing them access to specialists and by reducing the costs associated with travel and the time spent away from work and family.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and serious, long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, approximately 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke each year, and 87 percent of these are ischemic strokes. Ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that stops the flow of blood to the brain and deprives the surrounding brain tissue of oxygen. In the absence of oxygen, the brain cells in the immediate area begin to die, causing permanent brain damage, disability or death. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, so immediate medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities.
Now, when a patient comes into the emergency department at NNRH with the symptoms of an acute stroke, a computer with an advanced webcam will be brought to the bedside where the clinical team will connect with a neurologist at U of U. The neurologist, patient and clinical team at NNRH can see and speak to each other throughout the consult. The physician will examine the patient and review the CT scan of the patient’s head, providing guidance on advanced treatments within minutes.
In many cases, Telestroke consultation will allow patients to stay at NNRH. In more complicated cases the patient may need to be transferred to another facility for specialized treatment. Telestroke is still beneficial in these cases because the neurologist will have already met and started treating the patient.