MOUNT VERNON, WA, Nov. 21, 2008 – On Monday, Dec. 1 Skagit County area residents facing a potential or actual acute stroke will benefit from a recently formed partnership between the Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) TeleStroke Program and Skagit Valley Hospital that will bolster the Mount Vernon-based hospital’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 will provide an as-needed link between emergency-room (ER) physicians at Skagit Valley Hospital and the comprehensive team of stroke specialists based at the Swedish/Cherry Hill Campus in Seattle. With the help of a secure, video-conferencing network, members of SNI’s Stroke Program will be able to quickly perform ‘virtual’ bedside neurological evaluations that will allow them to examine patients, review brain images and quickly select the best acute stroke treatments in collaboration with Skagit Valley Hospital ER physicians.
“Skagit Valley Hospital sees 40 to 50 stroke patients per year. We have the equipment and team, now we’ll have the expertise of the physicians and staff at Swedish to help better serve our patients,” said Donna McCabe, director of the Skagit Valley Hospital Emergency Department. “I really think it’s going to be a great service to the patient and family of someone who may or may not be suffering from an acute stroke.”
Although this partnership with Skagit Valley Hospital – and soon a second non-Swedish-affiliated Puget Sound-area hospital – are the first of their kind for SNI’s TeleStroke Program, the concept of a certified and comprehensive stroke center providing extra support to remotely located community hospitals is not new. The reason: SNI’s TeleStroke Program, which started providing enhanced stroke-care services via telemedicine to two of Swedish’s four Seattle-area ERs in October 2007, was modeled after the country’s first and leading program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a founding member of the Partners HealthCare System in Boston.
“We are really excited about the opportunity to begin helping the ER physicians at Skagit Valley Hospital provide an enhanced level of stroke care services to people who live and work in the Skagit, Island, San Juan, and north Snohomish County region,” said SNI Stroke Program Director William Likosky, M.D. “Over time, this partnership will include the option for Skagit Valley Hospital ER physicians to participate in learning opportunities broadcast over the Partners TeleStroke network and in multi-site clinical research projects.”
Since the Swedish TeleStroke Program is part of an integrated effort to improve stroke diagnosis and treatment throughout Washington state, SNI’s TeleStroke Program is also in the process of expanding this hub-and-spoke model later this month by starting to provide these same services to a community hospital on the Olympic Peninsula.
Stroke is the third largest cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, about 700,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds and about every three minutes, someone dies of stroke.
Closer to home, Washington state has one of the higher rates of stroke death in the country. Fortunately, over the past decade stroke care has improved in various ways. Examples include newer diagnostic tests that are available to help pinpoint the location of a clot, and newer therapeutic treatments that may help reverse or minimize the impact of a stroke. However, these treatments are time-dependent and, as a result, most effective when they can be provided in the nearest emergency room. Unfortunately, many ERs do not have the volume or support to provide American Heart Association-recommended stroke evaluations and treatments. Telemedicine provides an effective way of bringing to the patient’s community ER the same level of expert care available at a major medical center with an experienced stroke program.
How the Swedish TeleStroke Program Works
The Swedish Stroke Program hub is located on the Cherry Hill Campus in Seattle. When a rescue candidate stroke patient arrives in an ER at Skagit Valley Hospital at any time of the day or night, the Swedish stroke team is paged. As indicated, members of the team – which include a stroke team physician in coordination with a specially trained stroke nurse practitioner/physician assistant or Registered Nurse – can 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 three hours of the onset of a stroke. 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”).
“All four Swedish campuses – First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and Issaquah – are certified as Primary Stroke Centers by the Joint Commission,” said Tammy Cress, R.N., Swedish Stroke Program manager. “TeleStroke is another important tool in our arsenal against the third leading cause of death in the United States and the number-one cause of adult disability.”
TeleStroke consultation also ensures that high quality, in-hospital and post-acute interventions are in place to prevent recurrent stroke and future disability.
The initial infrastructure technology cost at Swedish was approximately $100,000, which was entirely funded by the Swedish Foundation and its donors. The Swedish Foundation is now in the process of raising funds to support subsequent phases of the program.
To view video clips of actual TeleStroke-enabled analyses being performed at MGH, click here. For more information on how to become a partner of the Swedish TeleStroke Program or advanced stroke diagnosis and treatment, contact Tammy Cress at 206-320-3112 or via email@example.com
About Skagit Valley Hospital
Established in 1958 and located in Mount Vernon, Wash., Skagit Valley Hospital is a regional, community hospital licensed for 137 beds, making it Washington state’s fourth largest district hospital. The hospital serves Skagit, Island, San Juan and north Snohomish counties with a full range of inpatient and outpatient services. In July 2007, SVH opened a 220,000 square-foot expansion project featuring all private patient rooms, a new Emergency/Trauma unit, a new Family Birth Center and expanded space for surgical and critical care services. For more information, visit www.skagitvalleyhospital.org
Swedish is the largest, most comprehensive, nonprofit health provider in the Greater Seattle area. It is comprised of three hospital campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill and Ballard), a freestanding emergency room and specialty center in Issaquah, Swedish Home Care Services, and the Swedish Physician Division, which is a network of about 40 primary- and specialty-care clinics located throughout the Puget Sound region. In addition to general medical and surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit www.swedish.org
About the Swedish Neuroscience Institute
In 2004, Swedish expanded its neuroscience services by establishing the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. The team of leading neurosurgeons and other specialists are building a world-class institute dedicated solely to the treatment and advancement of neurological disorders for patients in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Swedish/Cherry Hill has been designated as the hub for the Institute and has been upgraded with four state-of-the-art operating rooms featuring intra-operative MRI, CT scanning and neuro-interventional radiology capabilities; a renovated neuro intensive-care unit; and a CyberKnife® facility for radiosurgical treatment of tumors throughout the body. SNI specializes in the research for and treatment of stroke; cerebral aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations; movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and tremors; brain tumors (including both malignant tumors and benign tumors such as meningiomas); neuro-endocrine disorders including pituitary tumors; epilepsy; child neurological disorders; neuro-ophthalmology; headaches; multiple sclerosis and many other neurological conditions and diseases. In each category, physicians from different specialties are brought together to provide a multi-disciplinary approach centered on providing top-notch patient care. For more information, visit www.swedish.org
To read a related article published in the Nov. 18 issue of the Skagit Valley Herald, click here.