Tidelands Health telestroke program earns statewide recognition
When it comes to stroke care, speed matters.
Studies show that earlier treatment makes a profound difference in a patient’s ability to walk, talk and live independently afterward.
“Time is of the essence,” said Brooke Reidel, stroke and sepsis program coordinator at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital. “We want to confirm the diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.”
To help achieve that goal, Tidelands Health has partnered with MUSC Health to offer a telestroke program since 2008. When a suspected stroke victim arrives at a Tidelands Health hospital, a MUSC vascular neurologist is immediately available via a secure, high-resolution videoconference to help diagnose the patient and determine the best course of treatment.
The success of the Tidelands Health telestroke program recently earned it recognition as the 2017 South Carolina Telehealth Program of Excellence from Palmetto Care Connections, a member of the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, an organization that helps support telehealth throughout the state.
“Telehealth is a great example of how health care providers are collaborating to benefit patients,” Reidel said. “The programs allow providers to share resources even if they are far apart.”
Telestroke is an integral part of the comprehensive practices and procedures used at Tidelands Health hospitals to help provide rapid diagnosis and intervention for stroke patients.
The first step is to conduct and read a CT scan to verify the stroke diagnosis and determine the type of stroke a patient has suffered. If the stoke was caused by a clot, the patient might benefit from a clot-busting medication, Reidel said. Patients with strokes caused by bleeding may need surgical intervention.
The clinical staff also must determine the scope of a patient’s symptoms, and, among other things, evaluate a patient’s medical history.
The stroke specialists from MUSC work closely with Tidelands Health physicians to assess the patient and determine the best course of action, Reidel said. More than 1,800 patients have benefited from the partnership.
“Everyone is focused on a single goal -- to help ensure each patient gets the proper treatment as fast as possible,” said Lenny Pacholski, stroke and sepsis coordinator at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital. “We want our patients to experience the best possible outcomes.”
The coordinated approach to care is paying dividends, Pacholski said. For example, stroke patients at Tidelands Health hospitals routinely receive clot-busting medication faster than the industry benchmark.
Tidelands Waccamaw and Tidelands Georgetown also have earned certification from The Joint Commission as advanced primary stroke centers. The voluntary process includes a rigorous review of the hospitals’ practices and procedures.
Pacholski said one of the most crucial parts of treating stroke starts before a patient ever arrives at the hospital. People need to recognize the signs of a stroke and immediately call 911.
It’s best if patients exhibiting stroke symptoms are transported by ambulance, because emergency medical staff can coordinate with clinicians in the hospital to prepare for the arrival of a potential stroke patient.