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updated: 7/27/2012 9:33 PM

Telemedicine brings expert stroke care to Vista

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  • Vista's new neuro telemedicine Unit with Vista ER Nurses & patient.

    Vista's new neuro telemedicine Unit with Vista ER Nurses & patient.
    John Griffin

John Griffin

Stroke patients who seek care in the emergency room at Vista Medical Center East now benefit from the expertise of neurologists at Rush University Medical Center. A new video robotic system enables Rush stroke specialists to consult with ER physicians at Vista on a moment's notice, any time of the day or night.

The system uses a sophisticated rolling station includes a video camera and a laptop computer with a secure Internet connection. Through the computer, the neurologist can control the camera to view and speak with the patient, family members and medical staff. Since the system uses two-way live video conferencing, the patient can see the physician on the computer screen, allowing for a more personal connection.

Rush neurologists also have immediate access to patients' medical information, including CT scans, lab results and vital signs. Since the system uses a laptop computer, the neurologist can log on via an Internet connection and provide crucial, time-sensitive evaluations and recommendations.

Timeliness is crucial in responding to stroke. The clot-busting medication tPA can greatly improve a patient's chances of surviving stroke and avoiding permanent disability if administered within the first four and a half hours. Likewise, patients also only have about eight hours in which to receive surgical treat¬ment before suffering permanent damage.

Nationwide, 25 to 30 percent of patients arrive at a hospital emergency room within the treatment window for tPA, but only 2 to 3 percent of all stroke patients actually receive tPA. Speeding up the time it takes for stroke experts to see patients using this system will help provide faster care and reduce the risk of complications in many more stroke patients. This system enables the neurologist to observe and evaluate a patient's speech, level of consciousness and ability to move -- much like being bedside with the patient.

By using this information and the patient evaluation made possible through video conferencing, the neurologist can make a decision about the course of treat¬ment within minutes. The neurologist then either will turn the patient's treatment back over to the Vista emergency physician or initiate a transfer to Rush's main campus if the patient needs specialized treatment.

"Having a trained stroke neurologist available within minutes through the video conferencing process allows us to offer the highest level of care to our patients," says Brock Franklin, MD, director of Emergency Medicine at Vista Health System.