WALLA WALLA, WA, Feb. 7, 2012 – Walla Walla area residents facing a potential or actual acute stroke will benefit from a recently formed partnership between the Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) Acute TeleStroke Program and Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) that will bolster WWGH’s stroke support services through 24/7, around-the-clock access to SNI’s nationally recognized stroke team experts via real-time, telemedicine-based technology.
This TeleStroke partnership provides an as-needed link between the Emergency Center team at WWGH and the comprehensive team of stroke specialists based at the Swedish/Cherry Hill campus campus in Seattle. With the help of a secure, video-conferencing network, members of SNI’s Stroke Program are able to quickly perform ‘virtual’ bedside neurological evaluations that allow them to examine patients, review brain images and quickly select the best acute stroke treatments in collaboration with WWGH Emergency Center physicians.
WWGH sees more than 125 patients a year who are experiencing signs and symptoms of TIA or Stroke. Many of those patients may qualify for the TeleStroke program. “We have the equipment and team, now we have the expertise of the physicians and staff at Swedish to help better serve our patients,” said Jackie Fullerton, vice president for patient- care services at WWGH. “The difference this can make for our patients and their families is huge.”
In fact, the first week that the program went live a WWGH patient was evaluated via telemedicine by the Swedish Stroke Team neurologist and treated with the clot-buster drug, rtPA, in collaboration with the Emergency Center team at WWGH. “She went from a level of disability due to the stroke that would have left her needing full-time care, to walking out of the hospital with little to no disability after the quick evaluation and appropriate treatment,” said Linda Givens, director of the Emergency Center at WWGH. “Time is brain when it comes to caring for patients who may be suffering from a stroke. We are so thankful to have this level of care 24/7.”
Although this partnership between WWGH and SNI’s TeleStroke Program is a recent development, the concept of a certified and comprehensive stroke center providing extra support to partner emergency departments is not new.
“We are really excited about the opportunity to begin helping the Emergency Center team at WWGH provide an enhanced level of stroke care services,” said SNI Stroke Program Medical Director William Likosky, M.D. “The innovative component of this program is to bring experienced vascular consultants to the patient’s bedside in the Emergency Center. The consulting physician is then able to examine the patient and discuss with the patient, family and Emergency Center doctor emergent treatments, which may break down blood clots and reverse stroke symptoms.”
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, about 800,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. Treatments for stroke are time-dependent and, as a result, most effective when they can be provided in the nearest emergency department (ED). Unfortunately, many EDs do not have the volume or support to provide American Heart Association-recommended stroke evaluations and treatments. Telemedicine provides an effective way of bringing the same level of expert care available at a major medical center to hospitals in more rural locations.
How the Swedish TeleStroke Program Works
The Swedish Stroke Program hub is located on the Cherry Hill Campus campus in Seattle. When a rescue candidate stroke patient arrives in the Emergency Center at WWGH at any time of the day or night, the Swedish stroke team is paged. As indicated, members of the team log in on their home or office computers to complete a TeleStroke examination and determine if a patient might qualify for available rescue therapies in an attempt to ‘stop’ the stroke. The most common rescue therapy that the stroke team would use is an FDA-approved medicine called tissue plasminogen activator or TPA. This medicine can reverse the devastating effects of stroke for some patients if it is administered within the acute treatment window. But the key to the successful use of TPA – or other clot-busting thrombolytic drugs – lies in rapid and correct diagnosis because as every minute passes, more brain cells die if the blood clot causing the stroke is not destroyed (‘Time is Brain’).
The Swedish Acute TeleStroke Program, which started in 2007, is part of an integrated effort to improve stroke diagnosis and treatment throughout Washington state. It currently provides these services to 15 locations throughout the region.
About Walla Walla General Hospital
Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) is a not-for-profit, faith-based hospital providing a full range of emergency, inpatient, outpatient, and surgical services. A 72-bed, acute-care hospital, WWGH employs more than 400 community members, has a medical staff of nearly 181 and benefits from the services of more than 100 volunteers. WWGH is known for providing quality medical care with a personal touch, with employees who are dedicated to living out the hospital’s mission of restoring peace, hope and health as Christ did. WWGH is part of Adventist Health, a not-for-profit, faith-based health system operating in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state. Founded on the Seventh-day Adventist heritage of Christian health care, Adventist Health is comprised of 18 hospitals with more than 2,800 beds, nearly 18,000 employees, numerous clinics and outpatient facilities, the largest system of rural health clinics in California, 15 home-care agencies and three joint-venture retirement centers with a fourth on the way. For more information, visit www.wwgh.com.
About Swedish and Swedish Neuroscience Institute
Swedish has grown over the last 102 years to become the largest non-profit health provider in the Greater Seattle area with 11,000 employees, more than 2,800 physicians and 1,700 volunteers. It is comprised of five hospital campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard, Edmonds and Issaquah); ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek; and Swedish Medical Group – a network of more than 100 primary-care and specialty clinics located throughout the Greater Puget Sound area. In addition to general medical and surgical care including robotic-assisted surgery, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatric specialties, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit www.swedish.org, www.swedishcares.org, www.facebook.com/swedishmedicalcenter or www.twitter.com/swedish.
In 2004, Swedish expanded its neuroscience services by establishing the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. The team of leading neurologists, neurosurgeons and other specialists are building a world-class institute dedicated solely to the treatment and research of neurological disorders for patients in the Pacific Northwest. The Swedish/Cherry Hill campus is the hub for the Institute. For more information, visit www.swedish.org/neuroscience.
Swedish is affiliated with Providence Health & Services, which is a Catholic, not-for-profit organization founded by the Sisters of Providence in 1856 with 27 hospitals, 214 physician clinics and almost 53,000 employees across five states. Based in Renton, Wash., Providence Health & Services provides strategic and management services to integrated health-care systems in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon and Washington state. In 2009, Providence and Swedish provided a combined total of more than $205 million in community benefit in Western Washington, including $61.4 million in free and discounted care for those who could not afford to pay for care. For more information, visit www.providence.org.