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Telemedicine brings specialty care to stroke victims

November 14, 2011

Following a stroke, quick response is critical to the patient’s recovery. About 80 percent of Americans suffering strokes have ischemic strokes, a blood clot in the brain. If given within three hours, clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can greatly improve recovery.

That’s good news, but there are challenges to getting patients the care they need, explains Kelly Arnold, RN, quality improvement coordinator for stroke care. First, the signs of stroke must be recognized and the person must seek medical care quickly. The type of stroke must be determined by a neurologist trained in stroke care. Then, if appropriate, tPA can be administered.

A telemedicine relationship with Swedish Medical Center in Denver now means St. Mary’s has 24-7 access to stroke-trained neurologists. A video, audio and data-transmitting unit gives the Denver physician a direct, interactive connection with the patient and staff at St. Mary’s. “A visual assessment by the stroke specialist greatly increases the accuracy of the diagnosis,” Arnold explains. “These specialists have the experience gained from caring for patients in their large stroke center and 23 telemedicine locations. Access to diagnostic and decision-making expertise means our patients can receive appropriate care in the critical first hours following a stroke.”