By Erik Hidle
Peninsula Daily News
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Jefferson County's only hospital has formed a partnership with the Swedish Neuroscience Institute that will allow for around-the-clock access to stroke experts via real-time video and audio.
The technology provides a link between emergency room physicians at Jefferson Healthcare and the team of stroke specialists based at the Swedish/Cherry Hill Campus in Seattle.
Using a video-conferencing network, members of Swedish will be able to perform virtual bedside neurological evaluations that allow them to examine patients, review brain images and quickly select the best acute stroke treatments in collaboration with Jefferson doctors.
Terri Camp, chief nurse executive at Jefferson Healthcare, said the program essentially puts a neurologist on staff at the hospital.
"It's going to help us a lot," Camp said.
"We already have a great group of physicians who do a great job, and this will allow us to have neurologist on call."
Camp said that when a patient comes in suffering from a stroke, he or she can immediately get a specialist on the line from Swedish.
Using a giant television screen with speakers and a camera, the doctor and a nurse from Seattle will be able to check out the patient and make a diagnosis.
"We can use this in cases which are borderline," said Dr. Guenther Muens, director of Jefferson Healthcare's emergency room.
"When a patient is close to a different grade, we can have a neurologist take a look at it and decide what course of action should be taken.
"This gives you confidence in working with a stroke patient by having a neurologist there looking over your shoulder."
The partnership between Swedish and Jefferson Healthcare is one of the first in a program that may eventually go statewide.
The program's directors said they were thrilled to get the ball rolling with charter programs in Jefferson and Skagit Counties.
"We are really excited about the opportunity to help the ER physicians at Jefferson Healthcare provide an enhanced level of stroke-care services to people who live in and around the greater Port Townsend area," said Dr. William Likosky, program director at Swedish.
"Over time, this partnership will include the option for Jefferson Healthcare ER physicians to participate in learning opportunities broadcast over the Partners TeleStroke network and in multi-site clinical research projects."
According to Swedish, stroke is the third largest cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, about 700,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds, and about every three minutes, someone dies of stroke.
Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.