2YH: Telestroke technology connects patients to doctors within minutes

Published: Jul. 31, 2018 at 9:05 PM AKDT
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Dr. Nelson Isada, an Obstetrician-gynecologist, began his day likely any other at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

After an appointment with a patient, Isada says he began to have weakness in this arms and slurred speech.

"I told staff I was not feeling good and they said you look terrible," Isada said.

His staff brought him to the lower level of the hospital for evaluation.

"Within in a few minutes, this device was there," Isada said. "It looked like a robot and I thought what is going on here?"

Dr. John Zurasky logged into an Anchorage hospital room from Portland, Oregon using a video conference system called Telestoke.

From a screen, Zurasky was able to identify that Dr. Isada was suffering from a stroke and prescribed a Tissue Plasminogen Activator (TPA).

"When you have an increasingly sophisticated clinical condition the number of people trained to do it are fewer," Zurasky said.

Zurasky said telestroke allows patients to find a doctor specializing in stroke diagnosis and treatment within about two minutes.

Dr. Robert Lada is one of the few vascular neurologists in the state. Lada says every second counts when a patient is having a stoke.

"Every minute that goes by they lose about 2 million nerve cells," Lada said.

Doctors and patients can now use Telestroke at eight hospitals across Alaska to reach more than 20 stroke specialists around the clock in the lower 48.

Telehealth technology in general is being utilized at hospitals across Alaska.

Stewart Ferguson, Chief Information Officer at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium says there are over 30 departments offering telehealth, helping patients with everything from treating ear infections to heart issues.

Ferguson says telehealth is largely used to reach patients in rural communities.

Telehealth services have been expanding with hospitals across the state.

The Alaska VA has been using the service to help with care at home for veterans. Alaska Regional Hospital will be introducing a telestroke program at Central Peninsula Hospital.