Culberson Hospital Offers Stroke Patients Real-Time Neurology Consults

Van Horn, Texas (May 17, 2017) – A new program implemented at Culberson Hospital will help patients with strokes recover more rapidly.

According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., and is a leading cause of serious disability.  Recovery from a stroke depends on how long blood flow to the brain is blocked.  If blood circulation in the brain is restored within minutes to a few hours, the person can recover rapidly, within hours to a day.

Patients with potential strokes, head injuries, and other neurological conditions who arrive at the Culberson Hospital emergency department may now receive real-time consultation from a board certified neurologist, announced John Garner, DO, trauma medical director.

“This allows us to make more rapid treatment decisions,” said Dr. Garner, “and provides the receiving hospital with a more accurate assessment of patient condition should a transfer become necessary.”

Hospital administration has been working in partnership with St. David’s Medical Center, Austin, Texas, to establish the telemedicine program at Culberson Hospital to enhance the quality of care provided in the emergency department.

Equipment installed in the hospital emergency department allows the physician or other provider to contact a board-certified neurologist from Blue Sky Neurology within just a few minutes of patient’s arrival in the emergency department.  The neurologist has access to all patient diagnostic information including CT scans, and can interact directly with the provider as though the neurologist is physically present in the room.

Within the last few weeks, two patients treated at Culberson benefited from this new service.

One patient with stroke-like symptoms that was brought to the emergency department via the Culberson Hospital ambulance service, was “seen” by a neurologist within 15 minutes of arriving in the emergency department, and transferred via air ambulance 60 minutes later for treatment of an ischemic stroke with unknown time of onset.

The second patient who presented with known onset of stroke-like symptoms was seen immediately by the physician assistant, sent to radiology for a CT scan and was subsequently “seen” via high quality video and audio by the neurologist within 12 minutes of arrival at Culberson Hospital.

“Telemedicine is not a new concept,” noted Jonathon Voelkel, hospital administrator, “but the technology has improved so much that it is a much more effective option today than it was several years ago.”

Culberson Hospital is the first hospital in Texas to receive a special waiver from the Texas Department of State Health Services to allow telemedicine consultation support for nurse practitioners and physician assistants who have received specialized training and have experience in emergency medicine.

The shortage of physicians is a critical problem across the country, and presents major obstacle to smaller, more isolated communities like Van Horn.  “The special waiver will allow us to better support our physician and mid-level providers,” said Voelkel, “and improve access and quality of care to Culberson County residents.”


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