Tele-medicine is saving precious time for V.A. Med Center stroke patients

December 20, 2018 06:45 PM

The Stratton V.A. Medical Center is upping its stroke care. To do that, it's expanding its tele-medicine care.

For years, the Stratton V.A. Medical Center has been using tele-medicine in other specialties. However, since December 10, that off-site care is being brought into the emergency department for stroke patients. They’re one of the first ones in New York state and one of only 19 nationwide using the V.A.'s "TeleStroke" program.


Thanks to an iPad and microphone combo, emergency department doctors and staff at the Stratton V.A. Medical Center can call a participating neurologist in the V.A. system if a patient is suspected of suffering a stroke.

"As far as patient care goes, it's timely. I mean, if we took a patient in here that had a stroke and we had to transfer them, there's rate-limiting steps -- getting an ambulance, doing the assessment, getting a diagnosis to confirm, and then we will ship 'em over to Albany Med," explained Dr. Gene Pellin, the chief of ambulatory medicine at Albany Medical Center.

That's because the Stratton V.A. Med Center only has one full-time neurology staffer. Thanks to TeleStroke, there are two neurologists on-call across the nation at all times.

"Because we know that every minute that treatment is delayed, 1.9 million neurons are lost," pointed out Dr. Sharyl Martini, who is based in Houston, Texas. She is the medical director of the V.A. National TeleStroke program.

She says the neurologists like her – who partner with local emergency medical staff -- add an extra dimension to the care.

"So just by looking at a patient, I can know that there's leg weakness because of the way the leg is sitting on the stretcher," she said.

Since all the V.A. medical centers’ health records are connected, the offsite neurologists can view the results of the patient's CT scan to know if the stroke is due to a blockage and treatable with a clot-busting drug or caused by a hemorrhage and direct a different treatment plan.

While TeleStroke doesn't let neurologists do a hands-on exam, Dr. Martini says this collaboration forces all the care providers to up their communication, so nothing is overlooked.

"So I think overall, it improves communication on the team and improves the care of the patient," she pointed out.

Since the program went live earlier this month, five patients have been successfully treated.

The TeleStroke program is funded by the Office of Rural Health, so no cost for the Albany V.A.


Benita Zahn

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