Buck Garton's Story

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Swedish TeleStroke Program

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Rural stroke victim saved with telestroke technology

In the fall of 2010, Buck Garton's life nearly came to an end. He was experiencing stroke symptoms in a rural community in central Washington, hundreds of miles from the nearest stroke specialists. Luckily, Buck was taken to nearby Lake Chelan Community Hospital (LCCH), where he received a life-saving assessment and intervention from doctors in Chelan and a neurologist from Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.

As a 25-bed community hospital serving residents of and visitors to Chelan, Wash., LCCH provides critical access services and a 24-hour Emergency Department. Due to its distant location from Seattle and Spokane, LCCH relies on technology and its partnerships with larger hospitals across the state to provide the highest quality medical services possible. Though it is a small facility, LCCH is a recognized leader in telemedicine, known for strengthening collaboration between its local physicians and the larger network of facilities in the region to improve patient safety, operational efficiency and quality of health care. In fact, LCCH has twice been recognized by Hospitals and Health Networks – the journal of the American Hospital Association – as one of the nation’s “Most Wired” hospitals.

For LCCH's medical staff, caring for stroke patients presented a unique and critical challenge. Stroke treatments, which if used correctly and early into the start of a stroke, can maximize the possibility of a good outcome for a stroke patient. This requires a fast and efficient team response, typically within the first 60 minutes of a suspected stroke, known as the “golden hour” of stroke treatment. However, LCCH lacked access to neurology stroke specialists. To help ensure their patient population had access to such specialized care, LCCH teamed with the Swedish Acute Stroke Telemedicine Program to make stroke expertise available to its community. Together, LCCH and Swedish implemented a common set of treatment protocols for evaluation and treatment, which were enabled via telemedicine links.

The challenge of this technical-clinical solution was how to create a reliable link between the facilities on a limited budget with limited IT staff. As part of an acute stroke evaluation, the neurologist needs to review brain imaging.

Working with the Swedish Acute Stroke Telemedicine Program, ConnectMD created a private medical network to efficiently connect health-care facilities on the TeleStroke network. This network operates with a combination of virtual private networks and direct connection between facilities and the ConnectMD medical network core. To bring LCCH onto the network, a direct connection was made from its network to the ConnectMD and TeleStroke medical networks.

With these linkages, LCCH now has 24/7, real-time access to Swedish Medical Center’s nationally recognized stroke team in Seattle. The virtual bedside neurological evaluations provided through the TeleStroke program have bolstered LCCH’s stroke support service.