Telemedicine Provides 24/7 Expertise for Stroke Patients
The first few minutes after a stroke are critical. A lapse in time between the start of a “brain attack” and treatment could mean the difference between complete recovery, permanent disability or death.
Saddleback Medical Center is providing stroke patients better outcomes by offering faster diagnoses through an innovative telemedicine program that combines technology and medicine.
What is Telemedicine?
Within approximately 15 minutes of arrival at Saddleback Medical Center’s Emergency Department, stroke patients have a board-certified neurologist at their bedside thanks to highly advanced technology. The patient and specialist, or tele-neurologist, can see and hear one another through high-definition video conferencing. Tele-neurologists can perform a complete examination and decide quickly on a course of treatment, 24 hours a day.
“I’m standing right next to the patient and a tele-neurologist can see what I see,” says Jennifer Newton, M.D., assistant director of emergency medicine. “They can zoom in and see a patient’s pupils from across the room to pick up subtle findings that guide an accurate diagnosis.”
A stroke happens when blood supply and oxygen to the brain are altered, causing brain cells to die. Approximately 85 percent of strokes are due to clots, or obstructions, of blood vessels. Diagnosis and administration of appropriate treatment are time sensitive because physicians must quickly restore blood flow to the brain.
Often, patients with clots benefit from a clot-busting intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA. However, administration must typically occur within three hours of symptom onset.
“Once a stroke patient is admitted, the clock is ticking,” says Dean Le, M.D., medical director of neurology. “A tele-neurologist expedites the diagnosis for faster administration of the needed treatment.”
A Key Ally When Stroke Strikes
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Designated an official stroke neurology receiving center by the Orange County Health Care Agency, Saddleback Medical Center has treated more than 250 patients through telemedicine since March 2012.
“Telemedicine at Saddleback Medical Center is an unparalleled service in Orange County and is a leading example of our commitment to our patients,” says Dr. Newton. “Faster treatment means better results, so our patients can get back to their lives sooner.”