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Wyoming Hospital Forges Partnerships to Launch a Telestroke Network

Wyoming Medical Center has announced partnerships with two hospitals and conversations with three more to join its Telemed Wyoming network, which uses telemedicine to improve care for stroke patients in rural locations.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Wyoming’s largest hospital is launching a telestroke network with other hospitals in the mostly rural state.

Wyoming Medical Center in Casper has signed a telemedicine partnership with Memorial Hospital of Converse County, located in Douglas, and Sheridan Memorial Hospital. Officials say WMC is in talks with three other locations as well to join its Telemed Wyoming network.

“This endeavor is an effort to provide life-saving stroke care to people across the state,” WMC spokeswoman Kristy Bleizeffer recently told the Casper Star Tribune. “Nearly half of Wyoming citizens live an hour or more from the nearest hospital, and that hospital is typically a critical access hospital. Quick, accurate diagnosis is essential for such patients to ensure they are treated in time for the best possible outcome.”

“We want to help every hospital become certified as Acute Stroke Ready or as a Primary Stroke Center,” added Dr. David Wheeler, who heads WMC's neurology clinic. “We’re bringing up the quality of care in these other facilities, and I see that as the most important thing: Making cutting-edge stroke care available for every citizen of Wyoming.”

Through the hub-and-spoke telemedicine network, WMC’s stroke specialists can connect with smaller, more remote hospitals to diagnose and treat stroke patients. The virtual care platform enables those specialists to more quickly prescribe potentially life-saving medications like tPA, as well as giving those distant hospitals the opportunity to keep and care for their patients rather than sending them to the larger hospital.

To facilitate the connected care network, WMC will deploy telemedicine robots developed by California-based InTouch Health.

Telestroke networks are among the most common telemedicine collaborations in the US, led by large health systems with the resources to help rural and remote care providers.

Roughly one year ago, California’s Kaiser Permanente network published the results of a study in the journal Stroke in which stroke patients treated via telemedicine received life-saving treatment almost twice as fast as those receiving traditional in-person care. The study focused on a network of 20 hospital in northern California who were connected via telemedicine to specialists in the Stroke EXPRESS (EXpediting the Process of Evaluating and Stopping Stroke) program.

“Processes that used to happen sequentially during a stroke alert, one after another, are now happening at the same time, allowing us to quickly, safely and confidently provide evaluation and treatment with intravenous r-tPA to stroke patients who can benefit,” Jeffrey Klingman, MD, chairman of the Chiefs of Neurology for Kaiser Permanente Northern California and a co-author of the study, said in a press release issued by Kaiser Permanente.

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