As technology connects us faster and faster, the tools available in health care begin to look more like the futuristic communication capabilities dreamed up on the animated sitcom “The Jetsons.” For one example, look no further than the way telemedicine is changing the landscape of medicine. From the convenience and comfort of their communities, patients in smaller towns and rural areas are being connected remotely to larger hospitals with more resources.
The TeleStroke Program at CoxHealth is one such service. It was funded through a Rural Access to Specialties in the ER grant secured by CoxHealth Foundation and Skaggs Foundation.
TeleStroke is a hub-and-spoke system: Cox Medical Center South, a level I stroke center, serves as the hub while Cox Monett and Cox Medical Center Branson, level IV and level II stroke centers respectively, serve as the first two spokes.
“The goal for CoxHealth is to eventually be an invaluable resource for spoke facilities wanting to provide telemedicine services,” says Lindsey Bobbitt, telemedicine project coordinator. “For now, we must establish a solid foundation before we can expand to providing telemedicine services beyond CoxHealth patients and facilities.”
Through TeleStroke, emergency room doctors at both Cox Monett and Cox Medical Center Branson have access to on-call neurologists who can recommend the most appropriate care when a patient with a possible stroke presents to the emergency room. The collaboration of ER doctor and neurologist through the TeleStroke system means patients can be cared for close to home.
TeleStroke provides neurologists the ability to perform a live, real-time audiovisual consultation on a patient. Neurologists are able to remotely connect and communicate with stroke patients, family members and hospital emergency medical staff by using a camera and monitor system. In addition, physicians can remotely access imaging records providing for a more rapid and accurate diagnosis.
This is extraordinary for the patient because stroke is a time-critical situation. Having a prompt evaluation by a specialist increases the possibility that clot-dissolving therapies can be delivered in time to reduce stroke-related disability.
“This technology will save lives and can result in significant financial savings for patients by ruling out unnecessary transfers and provide timely treatment for those that would otherwise not have access to a neurological consult,” says Debra Mergen, stroke coordinator for CoxHealth.