Sequoyah Memorial will be obtaining telemedicine equipment that will allow a live connection to specialists who are not on site but may be in major medical centers in other cities. Debbie Knoke, SMH Administrator, said that “many times the specialty services are needed for consultation in the treatment of patients at SMH.”
The first project for telemedicine utilization is the stroke treatment program in conjunction with Margaret Tremwel, MD, PhD, a neurologist affiliated with Sparks, and one of the state’s leading vascular neurological physicians. Dr. Tremwel has conducted training with SMH staff. According to Knoke, at present, all nursing staff are certified in American Heart NIH Stroke Certification. A stroke team has been identified and is made up of physicians, nurses, and radiology technologists.
On May 13, 2010, the Oklahoma State Health Department conducted a survey of SMH for the purpose of Primary Stroke Center Certification. Sequoyah Memorial was successful and is now deemed a “Primary Stroke Center”! “Being classified as a Primary Stroke Center means that Sequoyah Memorial provides excellence in stroke treatment and care by a specially trained and certified stroke team including a neurologist,” said Debbie Knoke, CEO. “The care involves evaluation and treatment of the stroke patient, including the administration of the clot buster drug, t-Pa, if indicated. The delivery of this specialized care is provided by our on-site team in conjunction with our neurologist through telemedicine.”
As a Primary Stroke Center, a physician is on call and immediately available to respond to the Sequoyah Memorial Emergency Department when a patient presents to the ER with stroke symptoms. Essentially, a Primary Stroke Center provides immediate access to a team of specially trained health care providers, including a neurologist, Dr. Tremwel, for the assessment and treatment of stroke patients. In the instance of a suspected stroke, this is essential. Immediate access to life-saving treatment is key in preventing injury and in some cases death when a person feels they may be having a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is basically a brain attack, cutting off blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This in turn causes brain cells to begin to die- two million per minute during a stroke. This loss increases the risk for permanent brain damage, disability, or death. Acting fast and receiving immediate treatment is vital to a person’s life and recovery when having a stroke. “Stroke is a serious condition that can be debilitating and even deadly,” said Knoke. “That is why it was so important for Sequoyah Memorial to obtain the capability to treat stroke victims. Arkansas ranks number one in the instance of death caused by stroke, and as a region, we are lumped in that category. Our community cannot afford to not have access to immediate stroke treatment.”
Much work went into establishing the telestroke program at Sequoyah Memorial. The telemedicine service would not be possible without the Sequoyah Memorial Hospital Ladies’ Auxiliary group. Their dedication to this cause was instrumental. Their donation of $15,000 following the spring 2009 fundraiser was paramount to Sequoyah Memorial securing the needed equipment to implement telemedicine. The support of Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Telemedicine program, through their donation of the telemedicine cart, was also very significant; their dedication to the health of rural Oklahoma is very evident through their mission, which is to provide specialty physicians and services to rural Oklahomans through Telemedicine