Wyoming Medical Center launches TeleStroke Wyoming with hospitals in Sheridan and Douglas

By Kristy Bleizeffer Nov 14, 2018

In this training exercise, neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D, does a stroke assessment through TeleStroke technology with a mock patient at Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas.

Wyoming Medical Center is proud to announce its first TeleStroke Wyoming partnerships with Memorial Hospital of Converse County and Sheridan Memorial Hospital. 

TeleStroke will connect the ER physicians in Douglas and Sheridan with WMC neurologists to collaboratively devise the best treatment plans for stroke patients in real time.

The patient view of Dr. Wheeler during the mock stroke assessment in Douglas.
WMC Stroke Coordinator Melody Bowar plays the mock patient during the training at Memorial Hospital of Converse County. The Vici Robot in positioned at the foot of her bed.

Life-saving stroke care is measured in minutes. Time is brain, and the faster the blocked vessel is cleared, the better the chance for a patient’s survival and recovery. While studies show that treatment times decrease and treatment choices improve when a neurologist is involved early in the care of a stroke patient, few Wyoming hospitals have 24-hour neurology coverage.

“TeleStroke Wyoming allows WMC neurologists to actively participate in patient care and decision making from the moment the patient arrives at their local hospital,” said neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., medical director of WMC’s Primary Stroke Center. “Having neurologists involved early increases the likelihood that patients will get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment quickly, and that’s the metric of excellence in stroke care.” 

WMC’s TeleStroke partners are equipped with InTouch Health’s Vici robot at no cost to the hospitals. The Vici is a scalable, mobile cart system that can be rolled into any patient room. From Casper, WMC neurologists can examine and speak with patients and ER physicians in Douglas or Sheridan through the high-definition cameras and display monitors. They can zoom in or out or swing their view from side to side to ensure a complete field of vision. The system shares a patient’s history, vital signs and other data in real time in consultation with the on-site physician.

“Memorial Hospital of Converse County is excited to partner with WMC on this critical stroke initiative for our patients in Converse County,” said MHCC CEO Ryan Smith.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. One in every three strokes occur in people younger than 65. Advancements in stroke care over the last several years have vastly improved patient outcomes, but that treatment must be started quickly.

There are basically two ways to treat an ischemic stroke —the kind in which a clot blocks blood flow in arteries leading to or in the brain:

  • IV administration of the clot-busting medication tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within the first 4 ½ hours after onset of symptoms.
  • Mechanical thrombectomy, removing the clot from the brain with a specialized stent and image-guided technology, performed by the Interventional Radiology team. Wyoming Medical Center is the only hospital in the state with this capability. New guidelines have extended the time window for mechanical thrombectomy by up to 24 hours for some stroke patients, and  TeleStroke will help facilitate the quick transfer to Wyoming Medical Center.

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. Wyoming Medical Center has been engaged with community hospitals for many to years to develop a statewide system of care for stroke patients. TeleStroke Wyoming is the next step in that process.

“We want to help every hospital become certified as Acute Stroke Ready or as a Primary Stroke Center,” Dr. Wheeler said. “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.”

WMC’s Primary Stroke Center is Wyoming’s only center certified by the Joint Commission. Our stroke team is made up of members from nearly every department in the hospital including EMS, ER nurses and physicians, radiology, laboratory, pharmacy, ICU, neurology, therapies, case managers and more. The team meets monthly to analyze the latest data, collaborate on best care practices and troubleshoot areas that need improvement.

TeleStroke is the inaugural program of TeleMed Wyoming, WMC’s state-of-the-art telehealth system connecting Wyoming hospitals, physicians and patients with the widest network of medical specialties in the state, from the convenience of their local hospital.

“We are passionate about providing exceptional quality care to all patients and families across the state,” said Michele Chulick, President and CEO of Wyoming Medical Center. “We are pleased to to work with other hospitals to extend WMC’s mission of service to everyone in Wyoming.”

ACT F.A.S.T.

When it comes to stroke, time is of the essence. If you or a loved one shows any of the signs of stroke, Act F.A.S.T. Call 911 immediately.

  • F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Look to see if one side droops or the face is not symmetrical.
  • A – Arms: Have the person raise both arms in front of them at shoulder height. Watch to see if one arm drops lower than the other.
  • S – Speech: Ask the person a question or to repeat a phrase back to you. Listen for slurred or garbled speech or signs the person doesn’t understand what you have asked of them.
  • T – Time: If any of the three signs is present, time is of the essence. Call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to drive to the hospital yourself. Emergency medical responders will activate the stroke team on the way to the hospital, saving valuable minutes.