Technology critical in timely stroke treatment
July 02, 2009
Telestroke suites give patients in three more communities quick access to specialists
New technology that links stroke patients to stroke specialists in Edmonton and Calgary is now in use at three more health care facilities in northern Alberta.
Telestroke suites were activated this spring at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray, Peace River Community Health Centre and Lloydminster Hospital.
Telestroke uses Telehealth videoconferencing and CT image-sharing technology to provide rapid access to evaluation by a stroke specialist.
"When someone has a stroke, time is critical," says Dr. Tim Watson, a stroke neurologist in Calgary. "The sooner you can be treated with clot-busting therapy, the greater your chance of surviving without disabling brain damage."
Clot-busting drugs that can greatly reduce the disability resulting from a stroke must be administered within 41/2 hours of symptom onset.
Jennine Barr, a stroke service planner based in Grande Prairie, says the service gives patients a better chance of getting the medication that can help them recover, within the time they'll need it.
"Stroke specialists can make a better judgment call with Telestroke than they can over the phone," Barr says.
The three new Telestroke suites are a part of the Alberta Provincial Stroke Strategy's efforts to ensure the technology and processes are in place to allow Telestroke consultations to occur between primary stroke centres located across Alberta and the province's two comprehensive stroke centres: the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton and Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
The U of A Hospital serves the primary stroke centres based in Cold Lake, Hinton, Camrose, Wainwright, Grande Prairie, Peace River, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster and Red Deer.
Foothills Medical Centre serves primary stroke centres in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Drumheller.
Stroke specialists can diagnose a patient's condition and recommend a plan of care by conducting a visual examination of the patient on the screen while reading the patient's CT scan on an adjacent computer monitor.
Local doctors are thrilled to have access to this technology, says Carol Benson, nursing supervisor in the Peace River Community Health Centre's emergency department, where the Telestroke equipment is located.
"During our trial runs, our doctors had the neurologist up on the screen and not only could they talk to him, the neurologist was able to watch the patient," she says.
The Telestroke technology is an example of bringing service to the patient and cutting down on travel.
Benson says that's especially important for patients in remote rural areas.
Shy Amlani, Alberta Health Services' Stroke Program Manager for the Edmonton area, says patient access to acute stroke care is second-to-none through Telestroke.
"In the past, patients would have needed to be transferred to Edmonton for care and now they no longer need to be because they can receive that care in Lloydminster, Peace River or Fort McMurray," Amlani says.