CAH participates in Tele-Stroke program

CAH participates in Tele-Stroke program

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Carlinville Area Hospital is among 14 mostly rural hospitals now providing “tele-stroke” 24/7 services, led by Hospital Sisters Health System’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville and St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

A stroke is a “brain attack” that occurs from a sudden interruption of the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, leaking blood into the spaces surrounding the brain cells. When stroke patients receive approved medications within three hours of their first symptoms, they have a significantly reduced risk of experiencing permanent brain damage and long-term disability.

The program provides access to neurology specialists that may be more than 100 miles away from the patient. In its first three years, more than 1,500 emergency room stroke patients in Illinois received critical care they needed to recover from potentially life-threatening and debilitating strokes. When a stroke patient arrives in the emergency department and a neurology specialist consult is requested, response times are an average of three minutes or less.

Tele-stroke care facilitates a patient and neurologist encounter, even though the two may be separated by a large distance. The remote presence neurologist examines the patient using sophisticated videoconference and other medical equipment, speaks with clinicians and family members, reviews CT scans and other tests, and supports emergency treatment decisions with documentation in the medical record.

“Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, but with provider shortages, many rural hospitals have no access to stroke specialists,” said Alison Kennedy, MHA, BSN, RN, SCRN, LSSBB, Director of Clinical Service Lines at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. “Remote presence neurologists can evaluate patients for tPA, a clot-busting drug that can reduce death and disability from stroke. We often say, ‘time is brain,’ because minutes can be critical to saving lives and reducing disability. When appropriate, the tPA treatment must be administered within a brief window of a few hours after stroke symptoms begin.”

“Emergency room staff have been astonished that the project has achieved stroke specialist response times of three minutes or less,” said Chris Schmidt, BSN, RN, ITN Director and Regional Stroke and Telemedicine Nurse Coordinator at St. John’s Hospital. “We find that our tele-stroke care helps expedite treatment decisions, save lives, reduce disability, and also helps many patients avoid unnecessary transfers. It’s so gratifying to be able to save lives and improve outcomes with lightning-fast response times, especially in rural communities.”

The tele-stroke hospitals have formed a collaborative called the Illinois Telehealth Network; Kennedy serves on the board, and Schmidt serves as the network’s director. The network’s mission is to “improve access to health care, in rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities, through the application of telehealth and telemedicine solutions.” Kennedy added, “It’s all about increasing rural access to quality care.”

Emergency stroke care through tele-medicine are provided at all the hospitals in the Southern Illinois Division of HSHS, which includes St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, Holy Family Hospital in Greenville and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland.