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TeleStroke Program Connects Patients with Stroke Experts, Improves Recovery

Telemedicine, which utilizes electronic communication between healthcare providers and patients-think online video chat apps like Skype or Facetime, is transforming the way healthcare is delivered. In many cases, it enables care for patients who may not otherwise have access.

At Penn State Health St. Joseph, telemedicine has transformed treatment for suspected stroke patients, giving them access to Penn State Hershey stroke specialists at any time of the day or night.

Long recognized for its Stroke Center, St. Joseph was the first emergency department to partner with Penn State Hershey in its TeleStroke via LionNet program, an innovative and cutting-edge method of treating stroke patients in St. Joseph’s emergency department.

According to Rebecca Hackney, clinical coordinator of operations and quality at Penn State Health St. Joseph, the TeleStroke program is a game changer.

“Utilizing TeleStroke via LionNet enables us to get a Penn State Hershey stroke specialist to a patient’s bed side remotely,” Hackney explained. “The specialist can see and assess the patient, and determine what types of treatment should be employed. All this can happen very quickly, which is vitally important in the case of a stroke patient.”

When a suspected stroke patient enters St. Joseph’s emergency department, time is of the essence. That’s because medication used to reverse stroke symptoms can only be administered within three hours of the onset of those symptoms, and endovascular treatment must occur within 12 hours of onset.

The very first procedure once the patient enters the department is to secure a CT scan. That’s to determine whether there has been bleeding to the brain, Hackney explained. If bleeding has occurred, certain medications cannot be administered.

The patient is then placed in a room in the middle of the emergency department, where he or she can be closely monitored and attended.

“We put stroke care patients front and center in the emergency department,” Hackney said.

Routine procedures and screenings are performed, and the patient’s medical history is evaluated.

Meanwhile, a member of the healthcare team is charged with contacting a designated Hershey stroke specialist by phone and initiating a TeleStroke consultation.

The specialist on duty accesses the TeleStroke program on his or her laptop and is ready to consult with the patient and St. Joseph healthcare providers within 15 minutes of the call.

“We’ve seen physicians complete consults in their cars on the side of the road,” Hackney said. “It’s amazing how efficient this program is.”

Using the program, the physician can do a complete neurological exam and observe the interactions between the patient and his or her nurse.

Based on the exam and observations, the specialist usually can recommend what treatments are appropriate – or not appropriate – for that particular patient.

Treatment can start immediately, ensuring the best possible outcomes for the patient.

“Being able to get that provider to the patient so quickly is a huge advantage,” Hackney said.

Formerly, a patient who suffered a severe stroke may have needed to be transferred to Penn State Hershey Medical Center for specialized care. The need for transfer is greatly reduced through the use of the TeleStroke program.

“Most patients now can stay at St. Joe’s,” Hackney said. “And, that’s really important for them and their families.”

The Stroke Center at Penn State Health St. Joseph is a Certified Primary Stroke Center, fully equipped and committed to caring for the needs of a patient during a stroke emergency. Its partnership with Penn State Hershey has further enhanced care available to patients, Hackney said.

Penn State Health St. Josephs Emergency Department is a Certified Primary Stroke Center that provides full emergency services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Stroke is a medical emergency, if you or loved one experiences any signs of stroke, immediately dial 9-1-1 and do not attempt to drive to the hospital.

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