Doug Danker, an administrator at Mercy Hospital El Reno, can now cross a big “to-do” off his list. For 2016, Danker and a team from Mercy made it their personal mission to increase the level of care that nurses and physicians in El Reno are able to provide patients suffering from strokes.
“In the past, if anybody was suspected of having a stroke, we would transport them to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City for treatment,” Danker said.
That changed in March after the State Department of Health accredited Mercy Hospital El Reno as a level three stroke facility. Under this new certification, providers in El Reno are able to work virtually with neurologists to administer clot busting drugs to patients. Using Mercy’s telestroke program, patients suspected of having a stroke are able to meet face-to-face with neurologists at any time of the day or night through a video screen with two-way technology. From there, the neurologist works closely with local providers to determine the best type of medication to use.
“Treatment for stokes depends on the type of stroke a patient is having,” said Dr. Richard Vertrees Smith, neurologist and medical director of Mercy’s NeuroScience Institute. “Having the trained eye of a neurologist is crucial to rural providers to determine what the patient is suffering from, and whether or not the administration of clot busting drugs would be effective for the type of stroke they are having.”
There are two main types of strokes, ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots, and hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by a bleed within the brain.
“If a patient is suspected of having an ischemic stroke, we can administer clot busting drugs immediately to help them,” Danker said. “Similarly, if the neurologist determines that somebody is having a hemorrhagic stroke, we can transport them to a larger hospital to undergo a medical procedure.”
Treating stroke patients faster not only saves lives, but also limits permanent damage. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States, according to the National Stroke Association. With the addition of telemedicine and a next level certification, Danker estimates that more than half of stroke patients treated at Mercy Hospital El Reno will leave the hospital with no permanent damage.
“This new certification has already saved many lives in our community,” Danker said. “Our emergency providers put in a lot of hours to reach this level, and so far we have been very pleased with the results.”