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Lawrence R. Wechsler, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology
Vice President, Telemedicine, UPMC Physician Services Division
Telestroke is the ability to communicate between the UPMC hub hospital and a local or community hospital by a videoconferencing system that brings the expertise of the stroke specialist to the local hospital on an emergent basis, 24/7/365.
When a stroke occurs, time is of the essence. The expression we use is that time is brain. The longer we wait to institute treatment, the more potential there is for damage to the brain.
In many places, neurologists are not immediately available — they may be busy in the office or traveling from hospital to hospital. With this telemedicine system, we can bring the experienced stroke specialist to the emergency room to evaluate a stroke patient on an immediate basis.
The UPMC neurologists who participate in the telestroke system are all board-certified vascular neurologists, and they’re all very experienced in taking care of acute stroke patients. We see the UPMC neurologists acting in partnership with the physicians at the local hospital.
Although the emergency room physicians are familiar with the issues about acute stroke, they’re often not as knowledgeable and not as experienced as the neurologists who deal with this on an almost daily basis.
Because of that, the support from the neurologists for the physicians in the emergency room we feel adds to the care of the patient, and allows us to make the best decisions about what to do and what to offer that stroke patient.
The UPMC telestroke system is somewhat different in that it provides care within what we call a system of care. What that means is that in addition to the emergent telestroke services, we provide a number of enhancements to stroke care at a community hospital. This includes the continuity of care — everything from the emergent care through hospitalization, through a decision about whether or not there’s some more advanced treatment that the patient could benefit from if they were transferred down to our institution. So we provide the services from start to finish throughout the continuity of care for that patient.
UPMC and the Department of Neurology are committed to using technology to improve patient care. We feel technology has an important role to play in improving the science of medicine, in finding new ways to deliver better care to patients, and in providing cost efficiencies in reducing the cost of care while improving the overall quality of care.
For more information, contact us at 412-864-2102.