Norwalk Hospital launches telestroke program

By Nathan Eddy
10:54 AM
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Neurologists will be able to consult with emergency clinicians via communications equipment.

Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut has opened a telestroke program that allows neurologists to remotely consult with emergency medicine clinicians and evaluate patients, diagnose stroke and order treatment.

WHY IT MATTERS

The HIPAA-compliant communications equipment used for the service is designed to help expedite the evaluation of potential stroke patients by a neurologist.

Stroke, a broad term that describes damage to the brain, is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and delivering treatment as fast as possible is critical to preventing severe brain damage and death.

As a stroke can occur at any time, day or night, a neurologist may not be at the hospital when a suspected stroke patient enters the emergency department (ED).

The hospital’s telestroke program expedites the stroke evaluation from the neurologist, allowing an ED doctor or nurse to remote-connect the patient to a neurologist using a mobile telemedicine cart with audio and video capabilities.

The neurologist can then speak with the patient and visually and physically assess the patient from top to bottom by controlling the camera remotely, and then determine whether tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is an appropriate treatment and communicate this to the ED physician.

In order to be the most effective and reduce the risk of complications from the medication, tPA must be delivered within four and a half hours of when the patient begins to show stroke symptoms.

The telestroke service could help make the difference in whether tPA is a viable treatment, and while telestroke could expedite treatment for stroke, the hospital noted it would also still be important that someone go to the hospital as soon as stroke symptoms emerge.

ON THE RECORD

“Stroke is an emergency situation where time is critical. The faster a patient is treated for stroke, the greater the chance to preserve as much brain function as possible,” Benjamin Greenblatt, chair of emergency medicine at Norwalk Hospital, said in a statement. “While we consistently provide safe, timely care to our stroke patients, we identified a way to deliver effective treatment even faster.”

Because Norwalk Hospital is in an urban area, the hospital saw a need for telestroke because traffic on the highway can slow down neurologists in route to the hospital.

Clinicians, administrators, compliance and IT--including clinical informatics analysts, security, and telecommunications--all participated in the development of the service, which the hospital recognized as a “clear example” of using technology to optimize patient care.

“The telestroke program will enable us to provide more rapid treatment in a time-sensitive emergency situation,” Daryl Story, neurologist and director of the acute stroke team at Norwalk Hospital, said in a statement.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.

Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com

Twitter: @dropdeaded209 

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication. 

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