17:00 PM

Northwestern Medicine Expands Telestroke Program to Kishwaukee and Valley West Hospitals

When a patient is suffering a stroke, every second counts. To ensure local patients receive a quick diagnosis by a board-certified neurologist, Northwestern Medicine is expanding its Telestroke program to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb and Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital in Sandwich. Using telemedicine technology, emergency department patients with stroke symptoms will be rapidly assessed by a Northwestern Medicine neurologist via a remote system.

The two-way video and audio system allows a neurologist, located many miles away at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, to conduct a virtual physical exam and to collaborate with the emergency medicine teams in DeKalb and Sandwich to quickly determine the best diagnosis and treatment.

“The Telestroke program is another example of meeting the promise we made to the community following our integration with Northwestern Medicine,” said Jay Anderson, president, Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital and Valley West Hospital. “Our patients now have immediate access to the highest level of stroke care, as well as cutting-edge technology, clinical trials, and other innovative programming.”

The video-conferencing system connects the neurologist and patient through a secure internet connection. Using the camera, the neurologist can perform observational tests, such as gauging how a patient’s pupils respond to light sources or monitoring how well the patient can move and speak. Simultaneously, through the electronic medical record, the neurologist has instant access to the patient’s medical information, including vital signs, CT scans and lab results.

“Even though the doctor and patient are separated by many miles, it is very similar to being at the patient’s bedside,” said Richard Bernstein, MD, director of the Telestroke Program, Northwestern Medicine. “Capitalizing on the resources of our Comprehensive Stroke Centers, the medical team is able to coordinate the best treatment quickly and help reduce or prevent the potentially debilitating consequences of stroke.”

While the neurologist is asking questions, and panning and zooming the camera, the patient and family can also see the physician on a portable screen. Physicians providing the patient’s direct care are advised if the patient has suffered the type of stroke that responds to a potentially lifesaving clot-busting drug (tPA) and whether the severity of the patient’s condition warrants transfer to a Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“Immediate treatment after stroke is critical to help minimize the risk of serious brain damage,” said Andrew P. Oleksyn, DO, medical director of emergency medicine at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. “The goal is to diagnose and treat stroke within the ‘Golden Hour’, the first 60 minutes following onset of symptoms when patients have much better outcomes.”

Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States according to the American Stroke Association. Innovative programs, like telestroke, are a potential solution to the growing national shortage of neurologists. According to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, the supply of neurologists is growing by 11 percent, while demand is projected to grow by 16 percent, resulting in a shortfall of 820 neurologists by the year 2025.

Since launching in June of 2013, the Northwestern Medicine Telestroke program has expanded to more than a dozen partner hospitals in Illinois. The program has completed more than 3,000 telemedicine consults, significantly boosting early stroke intervention.

Anchored by Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the highest-ranked neurology and neurosurgery program in Illinois for 12 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, Northwestern Medicine’s stroke program is comprised of two Joint Commission Accredited Comprehensive Stroke Centers, two Primary Stroke Centers, a multidisciplinary physician team that includes neurology, neurosurgery, radiology and critical care, a Mobile Stroke Unit and a telestroke program.