Robotic telemedicine link with U o f L Healthcare
Watch a video describing the telemedicine link between Baptist Health Paducah and U of L HealthCare.
Western Kentucky’s leader in cardiac care has joined with the state’s first certified stroke center to advance cardiovascular care in this region.
Baptist Health Paducah announced in May 2009 a partnership with University of Louisville Health Care, bringing the state’s top stroke specialists to western Kentucky through a robot telemedicine network.
Patrick Withrow, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Baptist Health Paducah, said May – national Stroke Awareness Month – is the appropriate time, and Baptist Health Paducah is the appropriate place to launch the partnership.
“Advancement in stroke care is a natural extension of the hospital’s cardiac program,” said Dr. Withrow, noting Baptist Health Paducah is ranked in the nation’s top 5 percent for coronary artery disease treatment and recognized as the only nationally-accredited chest pain center.
“When people come to Baptist Health Paducah for stroke care,” he said, “they are treated immediately, just like a heart attack patient because, essentially, they are the same disease – clots in vessels that can lead to disability or death if not treated quickly and properly. Like a heart attack, a brain attack happens when blood flow is blocked.”
A blocked artery to the brain results in a stroke, the nation’s third leading killer. “Stroke is the second leading cause of admissions to nursing homes and the leading cause of disability,” said Dr. Withrow, a cardiologist here since 1981. “Knowing the devastating impact of stroke on their families, my patients have always said to me, ‘Anything, doc, but a stroke.’ ”
Just as quick treatment can minimize heart damage after a heart attack, clot-busting medication given intravenously within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms can reverse or reduce stroke damage.
So Baptist Health Paducah’s stroke healthcare team – EMS staff, emergency room doctors, neurologists, neurosurgeons, hospitalists and nurses – preaches a simple message: “Time saved is brain saved.”
Baptist Health Paducah is one of 16 Kentucky hospitals, along with several statewide organizations such as the Kentucky Medical Association, participating in the Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force. Dr. Withrow co-chairs the task force, along with Kerri Remmel, M.D., director of Louisville’s University Hospital Stroke Center.
Baptist Health Paducah also participates in Kentucky’s first stroke registry, the Kentucky Stroke Encounter Quality Improvement Project.
To improve access and expedite stroke care, the U of L robot network offers 24/7 support, adding its team of experts to the spectrum of care available at Baptist Health Paducah.
Dr. Remmel said the robot network does not replace local doctors; instead, it gives them immediate, convenient access to out-of-town specialists. Such consults previously occurred by phone, forcing consulting physicians to rely on another’s interpretation of the patient. The robot gives them “face to face” contact and physical examination, providing more confident diagnoses.
“The robot is a valuable physician tool,” she said. “I have found that using the robot means that patients can be accessed more quickly, which expands treatment and intervention opportunities. The earlier a patient is diagnosed, the earlier the best treatments can be applied.”
When a patient exhibits stroke symptoms, a Baptist Health Paducah physician can get immediate assistance from a U of L physician. “You talk to Dr. Remmel, not a robot,” said Brian Hawkins, M.D., emergency physician at Baptist Health Paducah. “Everybody calls it a robot, but nobody treats it that way.”
From the mobile robot, a wireless Internet link allows specialists in Louisville to interact with patients, families, physicians and nurses at Baptist Health Paducah. The specialist’s face is displayed on a video screen, and the voice is audible while he or she converses with and examines a patient in Paducah. “The patient and his family forget within 30 seconds that we’re talking to them from a robot!” Dr. Remmel said.
The robotic connection allows U of L physicians to check patients’ cognitive reactions, study CT scans, observe vital signs and speak with family members. Once a diagnosis is made, Western Baptist staff can administer the IV medication, allowing the patient to stay close to home; or transfer the patient quickly to Louisville if more advanced intervention is required.
John Grubbs, M.D., neurologist at Baptist Health Paducah, said the relationship expands physician coverage and facilitates timely consultations during emergencies.
“During a stroke, seconds matter,” said Dr. Grubbs. “By having additional and immediate physician access, stroke outcomes are drastically improved.”
The robot is housed in the Emergency department at Baptist Health Paducah for stroke cases, but its use may be expanded.
More information on stroke care is available at westernbaptist.com or from Baptist Health Paducah’s 24-hour nurse call center at (270) 575-2918.
If you need to speak immediately to a nurse about possible stroke symptoms, phone Baptist Health Paducah’s Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline at 1-800-575-1911.