By LOIS KINDLE
When you’re having a stroke, you only have a short span of time to get treated to minimize its effects.
“Time is tissue,” said Michael Zimmermann, director of emergency and preparedness services at South Bay Hospital. “The longer you wait (to address stroke symptoms), the more damage that’s done and the longer its duration. If you get here in time, we have a drug that can reverse the symptoms of a stroke,” he added. “It will dissolve a clot.”
Zimmermann, a registered nurse, noted that in the past, emergency room staff had to wait for a neurologist to call to assess the patient’s vitals and CAT scan before the drug could be issued.
Now, thanks, to the hospital’s new Teleneurology Stroke Program, the second someone shows up with the symptoms of a stroke, the person gets a CAT scan and a consultative neurologist can see and assess the patient in the emergency room on screen through teleconferencing. He can review the CAT scan and make the necessary orders without having to be physically present, saving valuable time.
“Trained nurses are the doctor’s hands,” Zimmermann said. “And the patient can see and speak with the doctor even though he or she is not in the room.” If the patient is subsequently admitted to South Bay Hospital, one of the tele-doctors can then follow up.
Hospital CEO Dan Bender finds tremendous value in adding the program. “Its purpose is to provide greater and more immediate access to care. It’s the right thing to do for our patients. The phenomenal thing about this program is any patient has access to it 24/7 every day of the year,” Bender said.
To help area residents learn more about this new teleneurology program, the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging will host a free educational seminar from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce, 1651 Sun City Center Plaza. Zimmermann will be speaking.
At this same seminar, South Bay Hospital’s new “Vertical Go” ER triage will also be discussed. It’s a different spin on how the emergency room prioritizes who’s seen when.
Traditionally, when someone comes to the ER, the patient sees a triage nurse, gets a bed and then waits to see a doctor. That ER visit usually averages four to five hours.
With the Vertical Go process in place, a patient sees a triage nurse, who assigns a severity rating to the emergency. For example, a person with a cut would get a lower ER rating than someone with chest pain or abdominal bleeding.
Folks with lower ratings would go to a recliner to be assessed by a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant in a consultation area and are treated right there.
“It’s as quick as a pit crew,” Zimmermann said. “The patient receives focused attention and treatment and then is moved to the waiting area to be with family or friends. The entire process is now one to two hours, and the ER beds are freed up for more serious patients.” Zimmermann added that if someone is first assigned to a recliner and that person’s condition warrants it, of course, he or she will be moved to a bed.
Thus far, the hospital has seen high patient satisfaction ratings for folks treated through the Vertical Go process. “Due to overcrowding, most hospitals are moving toward this,” Zimmermann said. “Using Vertical Go, we’re better able to manage patients for better outcomes.”
Bender agrees. “An emergency room should be used for emergencies,” he said. “This helps the staff focus on more acute patients and handle minor complaints more efficiently.”
Bender said the Vertical Go process is being practiced nationwide. “It’s another best practice South Bay has adopted,” he said.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, don’t dismiss them. Call 911 or get to the hospital, immediately. You could be having a stroke. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Severe headache with no known cause