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The Mayo Clinic has extended its telestroke program to residents of the nation's largest Navajo Nation city who need emergency medical care due to stroke.
As a result of the recent agreement between Tuba City Regional Health Care and the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Mayo Clinic, telehealth services will start in Tuba City as early as November. Tuba City is located in north central Arizona, in the Painted Desert. Some 92 percent of the city's 8,611 residents belong to the Navajo and Hopi tribes.
"This telestroke partnership between our physicians and Mayo Clinic means our Navajo and Hopi patients can now have immediate high-tech, state-of-the art stroke care," said Joseph Engelken, CEO of Tuba City Regional Health Care.
The Mayo Clinic was the first medical center in Arizona to conduct clinical research to study telemedicine as a means of serving stroke patients in non-urban settings, officials said, and serves as the hub in a network of 11 centers, all but one of which are located in Arizona. Tuba City Regional Health Care will become the 12th hospital in that network.
When the Mayo Clinic began its stroke telemedicine program in 2005, officials said, research indicated 40 percent of Arizona residents lived outside an area with immediate stroke expertise.
In telestroke care, video conferencing technology in a rural hospital allows a stroke patient to be seen in real time by a neurology specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. A neurologist can thus examine a patient showing signs of stroke via computer, smartphone, portable tablets or laptops, viewing scans of the patient's brain to detect possible damage from a hemorrhage or blocked artery.
Officials say the collaboration enables patients with stroke symptoms who meet the criteria to be administered clot-busting medication within the narrow window of time necessary to minimize permanent injury to the brain.
"Excellent, capable emergency physicians at Tuba City Regional Health Care can ring the telestroke hotline and be instantly connected with Mayo Clinic's stroke experts," said Bart Demaerschalk, MD, professor of neurology and medical director of the Mayo Clinic Telestroke program. "Urgent and immediate virtual care can be provided to patients – collaboration between stroke neurologists and physicians at the remote sites has resulted in 96 percent accuracy in diagnosing stroke."
Officials say the telestroke program also improves patient comfort, as they no longer have to venture far to see a doctor.
"Telestroke will enhance the quality of care we provide to our loved ones by providing them with access to specialists without having to leave their family or home," said Joette Walters, a clinical education department manager who oversees the telemedicine program at Tuba City Regional Health Care. "Stroke can be a devastating and life-altering diagnosis, where optimal treatment is contingent on a narrow timeframe. By providing this new service we have the potential to improve quality of life for our loved ones."
To date, more than 1,000 emergency stroke consultations have taken place between Mayo Clinic stroke neurologists and physicians at the rural centers.
Demaerschalk said telestroke technology is not intended to replace face-to-face communication with patients. "But our research strongly suggests that the technology can enhance evaluation and treatment for patients in rural areas, as well as peer-to-peer collaboration among physicians," he said.
It is estimated that more than 45 percent of Americans live more than 60 minutes from a primary stroke center.
The Mayo Clinic Telestroke Network is comprised of hospitals in Kingman, Flagstaff, Parker, Cottonwood, Show Low, Globe, Yuma, Bisbee, Casa Grande and Phoenix, Ariz., and a hospital in St. Joseph, Mo.
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