Time is of the essence in treating victims of stroke or other neurological emergencies. That’s why Newton Medical Center is launching a new program using telemedicine videoconferencing technology to enhance its ability to connect patients with neurologists who can quickly diagnose and treat patients any time of the day or night.
“The best outcomes occur when stroke treatment is administered within 90 minutes of symptom onset”, said Colin Windham, MD, medical director of emergency services at Newton Medical Center. “FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common stroke symptoms, which affect a person’s face, arms and speech. Because ‘time is brain’, anyone who observes these signs should call 9-1-1 immediately.”
“When a patient comes to our Emergency Department with a neurologic complaint, our ED physicians must act quickly. They must decide if that complaint is indeed a stroke and whether it is the type of stroke that needs surgical intervention at a specialized stroke center,” said Val Gleason, president and chief executive officer of Newton Medical Center. “With our new 24-hour telestroke program, we now have stroke experts who can help us decide precisely which patients need that specialized treatment outside our community.”
An expansion of NMC’s general telemedicine program
In summer 2016, NMC launched a telemedicine program that focuses on general inpatient care. The program allows telemedicine physicians practicing in other Kansas locations to admit ED patients quickly to the hospital, when necessary. They also provide diagnosis and treatment in the middle of the night.
The program has been so successful that NMC investigated other ways telemedicine could benefit patients and physicians. The teleneurology program offered by Eagle Telemedicine, an Atlanta-based firm that provides NMC’s general telemedicine program, seemed like a natural fit. Best-in-class teleneurologists on the Eagle team are achieving impressive results: an average response time of 3.5 minutes, and an average diagnosis and treatment time of 21.8 minutes.
Teleneurology: A response to growing needs
“As our nation’s older population grows, the frequency of strokes and other acute neurological problems is increasing, too,” Gleason said. “Yet the supply of neurologists is dwindling—not good news for hospitals like NMC. Given this scenario, teleneurology is a perfect evolution for telemedicine. It enables us to provide best-in-class neurological care to our patients today, and positions us to answer increasing needs for that care in the future.”
In addition to diagnosing and treating patients, teleneurologists can provide effective follow-up care for the remainder of their stay, consulting with patients and providing ongoing support and advice to the local clinical team via two-way videoconferencing.
According to Newton Fire/EMS Chief Scott Metzler, the department takes 20 to 30 stroke patients to Wichita each year—patients that might have been able to receive treatment at NMC if a neurological specialist had been immediately available. Current local EMS protocol dictates that possible stroke patients who meet a certain threshold are taken to Wichita hospitals. While this protocol which requires local EMS providers to often bypass NMC is still in place, NMC expects that to change as a result of the new teleneurology program.
“Our goal is to keep more patients in their home community when they need healthcare,” Gleason said. “It’s good for them. It’s good for their families. We are proud to be able to offer this new specialty to the community.”
Meet the providers
A team of six certified neurology specialists make up Newton Medical Center’s teleneurology team. They are Dr. Chad Miller, vice president of neuroscience and director of neurocritical care, Riverside Methodist Hospital, Columbus, OH; Dr. Ira Chang, Director of Acute Care Neurology at Swedish Hospital in Denver, CO and the Colorado Neurological Institute; Dr. Kevin Sheth, director of neurocritical care at Yale University in New Haven, CT; Dr. Shilpa Tilwalli, former assistant professor at Rush University in Chicago now practicing in Palo Alto, CA; Dr. Natasha Renda, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; and Dr. Jeff Wagner, director of St. Joseph’s Medical Center Stroke Program in Denver, CO.
About Newton Medical Center
Newton Medical Center is a 103-bed hospital in Newton, Kan., providing comprehensive medical care to those in Harvey and surrounding counties. Services and specialties include emergency medicine, surgical services, occupational medicine, home health and more. The hospital, which also includes 12 primary care and specialty clinics, is conveniently located at the intersection of I-135 and Highway 50. For more information, call 316-283-2700 or visit www.newtonmed.com.
About Eagle Telemedicine
Founded in 2008, Eagle Telemedicine was one of the first companies to emerge in the telemedicine physician service arena and continues to serve as a pioneer in the industry today, providing practical programs that solve staffing and specialty gaps through the use of telemedicine. Eagle currently offers solutions that meet needs in Hospitalist Medicine, Stroke and Acute Neurology, Nocturnist Coverage, Psychiatry, ICU, Cardiology, Nephrology, Oncology and Infectious Disease care. The company was launched through Eagle Hospital Physicians, which develops and supports hospitalist physician practices serving hospitals in more than a dozen states. For more information, visit www.eagletelemedicine.com.