Wickenburg residents in need of emergency medical care for a stroke may benefit from a Mayo Clinic “telestroke” program now available at Wickenburg Community Hospital.
A recent agreement between Wickenburg Community Hospital and Mayo Clinic in Arizona means the service, featuring a portable, self-propelled robot began in Wickenburg on Sept. 2.
Mayo Clinic was the first medical center in Arizona to do pioneering clinical research to study telemedicine as a means of serving patients with a stroke in non-urban settings, and today serves as the hub in a network of 14 other spoke centers, all but one in Arizona. Wickenburg Community Hospital is the 10th hospital to be part of the telestroke service from Mayo Clinic.
When Mayo Clinic began its stroke telemedicine program in 2005, statistics revealed that 40 percent of residents in Arizona lived outside an area with immediate stroke expertise. In telestroke care, the use of a robot located in a rural hospital lets a stroke patient be seen in real time by a neurology specialist at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. The Mayo stroke neurologist, whose face appears on the screen of the robot, consults with emergency room physicians at the rural sites and evaluates the patient.
Patients showing signs of stroke can be examined by the neurologist via computer, smart phone technology, portable tablets or lap tops. In addition to assessment of the patient, the neurologist can view scans of the patient’s brain to detect possible damage from a hemorrhage or blocked artery.
A major benefit of the collaboration is that patients with stroke symptoms who meet the criteria can often be administered clot-busting medications within the narrow window of time necessary to minimize permanent injury to the brain.
“Excellent, capable emergency physicians at Wickenburg Community Hospital can ring the telestroke hotline and be instantly connected with Mayo Clinic’s stroke experts,” said Bart Demaerschalk, M.D., Professor of Neurology, and medical director of Mayo Clinic Telestroke. “Urgent and immediate virtual care can be provided to patients. Collaboration between stroke neurologists and physicians at the remote sites has resulted in 96 percent accuracy in diagnosing stroke.”
At WCH, our mission is to provide quality health and wellness services where the patient, family and community come first. This newly formed partnership with the Mayo Clinic is another step toward achieving that mission. In collaboration with the stroke neurologists and our emergency department providers, immediate, life-saving interventions can begin shortly after the patient enters the ED. This new service affords the patient better care and will ultimately save lives. We are very excited to be able to offer this service in the communities we serve.”
More than 1,500 emergency consultations for stroke between Mayo Clinic stroke neurologists and physicians at the spoke centers have taken place. Such comprehensive evaluation techniques, leading to appropriate life-saving treatment for stroke, have resulted in significant cost reductions in terms of ground and air ambulance transfer of the patient to another medical center.
Dr. Demaerschalk explains that telestroke robot technology is not intended to replace face-to-face communication with patients.
“But our research strongly suggests that the technology can enhance evaluation and treatment for patients in rural areas, as well as peer-to-peer collaboration among physicians,” he says.
It is estimated that more than 45 percent of
Americans live more than 60 minutes away from a primary stroke center. If a stroke has occurred, “every minute is precious,” notes Dr. Demaerschalk.
Additionally, in this first-of-its-kind U.S. health economic analysis, researchers have found that telestroke care appears to be cost-effective for rural hospitals that don’t have an around-the-clock neurologist, or stroke expert, on staff. The research is published in the Sept. 14, 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The Mayo Clinic Telestroke Network also includes hospitals in Casa Grande, Kingman, Flagstaff, Parker, Cottonwood, Show Low, Tuba City, Globe, Yuma, Bisbee and Phoenix and in St. Joseph, Mo.