MUNSTER – Working to further improve stroke care and patient recovery in Northwest Indiana, the hospitals of Community Healthcare System have partnered with Rush Medical Center’s TeleStroke Network. The network utilizes telemedicine to bring board-certified vascular neurologists from Rush to the patient’s bedside within minutes for stroke assessment through a mobile video robotic system. The TeleStroke technology is currently being used 24/7 365 days per year, to expand treatment options for ischemic stroke patients arriving to emergency departments of Community Hospital, St. Catherine Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center.
“TeleStroke allows Rush vascular neurologists to speak face-to-face with patients and their families, including neurologists and clinicians present in the emergency room,” said Alan Kumar, MD, chief medical officer, Community Healthcare System. “The assessment helps our emergency department teams quickly determine if the patient is an appropriate candidate for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which, when administered in a timely manner, can save lives or reduce the long-term effects of stroke.”
During a TeleStroke assessment, a Rush neurologist can review CT scans, vital signs and, through a high-definition camera located on the robot, view a patient’s pupils during a detailed assessment. The physician has access to the patient’s medical information through an electronic medical record. Within minutes, the stroke neurologist, along with the emergency room clinical staff, determines a plan of care and treatment to be initiated by the emergency physician. The process reduces the amount of time it takes to perform neurological assessments by having them completed simultaneously between consulting and on-site physicians.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death among Americans and the No. 1 cause of disability in adults. Of all strokes, 85 percent are ischemic in nature, meaning that it is caused by an obstruction within a vessel supplying blood to the brain. Research shows endovascular therapy or intervention to remove a blockage or blood clot is the most effective treatment. However, statistics show Indiana is one of the lowest performing states as it pertains to stroke treatment and door-to-needle times. The Community Healthcare System-Rush partnership focuses on improved access to treatment or “door-to-needle times” in Northwest Indiana.
“Our partnership with Rush ensures that more advanced procedures are available locally for advanced acute ischemic stroke care, such as intra-arterial tPA and mechanical thrombectomy,” said Neuroendovascular Surgeon Demetrius Lopes, MD, surgical director of the Neuroendovascular program at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.
“It takes an accomplished team of professionals working together to ensure that more people not just survive a stroke, but recover with as few lasting complications as possible,” said Lou Molina, chief executive officer, Community Hospital in Munster. “At Community Hospital, the availability of our powerful 3T MRI and construction of our hybrid surgical suite provides our neuroendovascular surgeons the ability to diagnose and perform complex neuroendovascular procedures used to treat brain aneurysms and stroke. New video capabilities also enable us to more easily collaborate with medical school partners such as Rush University Medical Center.”
“One of the most important aspects of caring for stroke patients is ensuring that there is the same high standard of care delivered in a timely, efficient manner, said Leo Correa, chief executive officer, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago. “We have worked diligently to collaborate and customize patient services, from the emergency department to rehabilitation, to provide each individual who comes to any of the Community Healthcare System hospitals for stroke treatment, the best possible experience and recovery.”
Improving stroke care in Northwest Indiana is a priority, as spelled out by the findings in the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by local hospitals. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Lake County at 43 percent, higher than the state and national averages of 41.7 and 36.9 percent, respectively.
“Every second counts when it comes to stroke,” said Janice Ryba, chief executive officer at St. Mary Medical Center. “Our hospitals utilize evidence-based research to deliver timely stroke care so our patients receive the best treatment in the quickest, most efficient manner. The TeleStroke medicine partnership helps us continue to deliver an advanced level of care at a time when it is needed most by our community.”
Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart have received the Gold Seal of Approval™ from the Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers. The distinction recognizes the hospitals’ staff for their commitment and success in treating stroke patients with the most appropriate, timely care according to national guidelines based on scientific evidence and preventive education. Currently there are only 37 primary stroke centers across the state, only 12 with interventional capabilities and only 1 other designated comprehensive stroke center (located in Indianapolis).
For more information about stroke care at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit comhs.org/stroke.