Forrest General Expands Access to Care Through New Telestroke Network
Stroke patients taken to any hospital in the Forrest Health network now have immediate access to highly specialized neurologists as the result of a partnership between Forrest Health and Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans (Ochsner). Forrest General Hospital, Marion General Hospital, Walthall General Hospital, Jefferson Davis Community Hospital, and Highland Community Hospital are all part of Forrest Health. Through the telestroke network, emergency department physicians have the ability to consult immediately with Ochsner neurologists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year using telemedicine equipment to determine the best treatment options for stroke patients.
Telemedicine programs improve the quality of care for patients outside of urban areas by allowing them access to specialists and by reducing the costs associated with travel and the time spent away from work and family.
“We’re pleased to have this technology available to us particularly for our hospitals in more rural areas. This program can save considerable time because we will not have to transfer patients to another facility in order to initiate emergent clot-busting therapy. When a patient is suffering from a stroke, time is a vital component for preventing brain cell injury or death,” said Keith Jones, MD, medical director of stroke at Forrest General.
Ischemic stroke is caused by a clot blocking a blood vessel. This stops the flow of blood to the brain and deprives the surrounding brain tissue of oxygen. In the absence of oxygen, the brain cells in the immediate area begin to die, causing permanent brain damage, disability or death. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, so immediate medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities.
When a patient comes into the emergency department at any Forrest Health hospital with the symptoms of an acute ischemic stroke, a computer with an advanced webcam will be brought to the bedside where the clinical team will connect with a neurologist on call at Ochsner. The neurologist, patient and clinical team can see and speak to each other throughout the consult. The physician will examine the patient and review the CT scan of the patient’s head, providing guidance on advanced treatments within minutes.
In many cases, Telestroke consultation will allow patients to stay at their hometown hospital. In more complicated cases the patient may need to be transferred to Forrest General, Ochsner, or another facility for specialized treatment. Telestroke is still beneficial in these cases because the neurologist will have already met and started treatment the patient.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T.:
• Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
• Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
• Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
• Time: Time is critical to protecting brain damage. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Remember, dial don’t drive. This will allow medical professionals to begin evaluation and treatment as soon as possible.