Virtual assist to diagnose, treat stroke patients


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Getting a speedy diagnosis and treatment are critical to limiting the damage of stroke. A local health chain is accomplishing both thanks to a virtual assist.

A neurologist can play a key role caring for a patient during the onset of a stroke. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, thanks to something called stroke telemedicine highly skilled neurologists are always available when seconds count.

At first glance, it may have appeared  it’s just a doctor and patient participating in this simulation of stroke care. But look closer and you’ll see there’s also a virtual visitor in Wilkes-Barre General Hospital’s Emergency Department.

“All right, can you stick out your tongue? Move it side to side,” commanded Neurologist Omar Shah, MD who appeared on a robotic computer screen from more than 100 miles away. This so-called virtual medicine is becoming more and more critical especially in matters dealing with the brain. Dr. Shah said, “This allows, you know, smaller community hospitals advanced stroke care within minutes.”

Through a computer or iPhone, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia provides top neuroscience physicians remotely to examine the stroke patient and interact with the patient, family and local doctors. The neurologist can review the patient’s health history, CT scans and lab results and decide immediate treatment. “It allows patients to sort of stay closer to their homes and still get up-to-the-minute, very advanced care,” said Dr. Shah.

That’s critical to help treat stroke patients according to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital Emergency Department Physician David Grasso, MD. “We can get a specialist on the line, help us streamline the care, get things done, you know, as soon as possible.  We’re saving, you know, brain. Time is brain.” Wilkes-Barre General Hospital Emergency Department Interim Director Jill Cook, RN added, “And, we’re not waiting for a phone call back. We’re not waiting for somebody to show up. You know, they’re here in real time and on the screen within minutes.”

At a time when the nation is experiencing a critical shortage of neurologically-trained doctors, experts say this is a great way to offset the shortage. Jefferson Neuroscience Network serves a total of 37 community hospitals in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey including five Commonwealth Health acute care hospitals in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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