NFCH to offer stroke victim care with telemedicine

Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 06:12 PM.

CHIPLEY — Northwest Florida Community Hospital is teaming up with Gulf Coast Medical Center to offer area stroke victims a faster treatment option through the use of telemedicine and robots.

Andy Long, director of neuroscience and telehealth services with Gulf Coast Medical Center in Panama City, and Daniel Dunlap, hospital outreach director with Hospital Corporation of America in Tallahassee, met with the NFCH Board of Directors on Oct. 15 to explain the program, which will allow neurologists in Panama City to interact with and treat stroke victims brought to the Chipley hospital.

“There isn’t any where in the stretch along Interstate 10 from Tallahassee to Pensacola that offers stroke care,” Dunlap told the board, “which means stroke victims from Jackson, Holmes or Washington Counties have to be taken to Panama City, a 50-minute trip.”

The treatment of strokes is very time sensitive, with brain function lost by the minute during the attack. The sooner a patient can get seen by a neurologist and prescribed the clot-busting drugs called thrombolytics needed to treat strokes, the better the patient outcome will be, Dunlap explained.

Despite the effectiveness of the thrombolytics, many patients are not treated due to late arrival at the emergency room, a delay in assessment or administration of the drug, Long said. According to a 2012 article, on 41.7 percent of stroke patients had brain imaging within 25 minutes of their arrival for treatment.

“Stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults, and every 4 minutes someone dies of a stroke,” Long said. “Strokes can and do occur at any age, and nearly one quarter of strokes occur in patients under the age of 65.”

Currently, Gulf Coast Medical Center is the nearest facility with Joint Commission Disease Specific Certification in Primary Stroke care. Through the Hospital Corporation of America Telemedicine Initiative, which will allow the neurology staff of GCMC to treat patients in Chipley using cloud-based internet technology, patients from the tri-county area can be brought to the ER at Northwest Florida Community Hospital and begin receiving their treatment much sooner.

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