Newly Formed Partnership with Swedish Neuroscience Institute will Bolster Stroke-Care Services for P

Newly Formed Partnership with Swedish Neuroscience Institute will Bolster Stroke-Care Services for People Who Live and Work on Whidbey Island

SEATTLE, Oct 21, 2011 – Whidbey Island residents facing a potential or actual acute stroke will now benefit from a recently formed partnership between the Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) Acute TeleStroke Program and Whidbey General Hospital (WGH) that will bolster WGH’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 Department (ED) team at WGH 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 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 WGH ED physicians.

“WGH sees more than 40 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 Michele Renninger, WGH Director of Community Outreach. “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 and can help to prevent the disability that is often associated with stroke. If a person recognizes the warning signs of a stroke they should seek care quickly. Our WGH Foundation saw the tremendous impact this could have on an individual’s life and funded the upfront cost of the Telestroke equipment. We are truly thankful to have such cutting-edge technology.”

Although this partnership between WGH and SNI’s TeleStroke Program is a recent development, the concept of a certified and comprehensive stroke center providing extra support to partner EDs is not new.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to begin helping the ED team at WGH provide an enhanced level of stroke care services to people who live and work on Whidbey,” 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 ED. The consulting physician will then be able to examine the patient and discuss with the patient, family and ED doctor emergent treatments, which may break down blood clots and reverse stroke symptoms.”

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 eleven locations throughout the region. “The TeleStroke Program is one of several changes we’ve recently made at the WGH ED to enhance the level of emergency medical services we provide to the community we serve, said Lee Roof, MD, Medical Director of Quality at WGH.

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 800,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds and about every four 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 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 to the patient’s community ED 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 the ED at WGH 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’).

“Swedish has been recognized by the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke center since 2004” said Tammy Cress, R.N., director of TeleHealth at Swedish. “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. This technology allows us to be efficient in spreading scarce and vital resources across large geographic areas allowing us to significantly impact a greater number of patients”

TeleStroke consultation also ensures that high quality, in-hospital and post-acute interventions are in place to prevent recurrent stroke and future disability.

For more information on how to become a partner of the Swedish Acute TeleStroke Program or to receive information about other Swedish TeleMedicine Program opportunities, contact Tammy Cress at 206-320-3112 or via

About WGH Hospital

Since 1970, WGH has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the Whidbey Island community through local, high-quality and compassionate health-care services. WGH is a fully accredited Critical Access Hospital with a 700+ professional staff serving the Whidbey Island community. More than 70 physicians have privileges. The facility provides a full range of inpatient and outpatient services, including emergency medicine, cardiac and cancer care, family birth place, home health and hospice, laboratory, rehabilitation services, rural health clinics, surgical center, wellness, and state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging. The Board of Commissioners for the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District is responsible for oversight of the hospital and its facilities. For more information, visit

About the Swedish Neuroscience Institute

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 and around the world. The Swedish/Cherry Hill campus is the hub for the Institute and has state-of-the-art operating rooms with intra-operative MRI and CT scanning, neuro-interventional radiology capabilities, a renovated neuro intensive-care unit, and a radiosurgery center with CyberKnife and Gamma Knife technologies for radiosurgical treatment of tumors throughout the body as well as other neurological diseases and disorders. For more information, visit


Media Coverage

  • To read a related article posted Oct. 27 on The Whidbey Examiner Web site, click here
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