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Saving Time, Saving Lives

January 16, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — When someone suffers a stroke, Jefferson University Hospital neurologist Dr. Omar Shah says “time is brain.” That’s why a new telemedicine collaboration with Commonwealth Health is important for local patients and could save lives. Speaking from a screen on a high-tech mobile robotic system, Shah demonstrated the telemedicine technology Tuesday at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital by communicating with emergency room doctor Dr. David Grasso and mock patient Jill Cook, the hospital’s interim ER director. In addition to Wilkes-Barre General, the stroke telemedicine program also is in operation at four other Commonwealth Hospitals: Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, Regional Hospital of Scranton, Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock and Berwick Hospital Center. The technology provides local patients with access to Jefferson Health’s comprehensive stroke program and an immediate link to top neuroscience specialists around the clock from Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. “This allows smaller community hospitals advanced stroke care within minutes,” Shah said. “It allows patients to stay closer to their homes and still get up-to-the-minute very advanced care very quickly.” Through the telemedicine program, an emergency room physician at Commonwealth Health places a call to Jefferson and requests a consultation. Within minutes, the Jefferson neurospecialist on call uses a computer or iPhone to connect via the robot to see and speak with the attending physician, patient and family members. The Jefferson physician obtains the patient’s medical history, examines the patients, reviews CT scans and lab results and provides recommendations for immediate treatment. A decision is then made to either admit the patient to a Commonwealth Health facility for continued care or to transfer him or her to a hospital such as Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience for more advanced care. Shah said providing this advanced care quickly is important because every minute someone has a stroke, he or she is losing 1.9 million brain cells. “Every minute, you’re aging around three weeks,” Shah said. “Time is really important to stroke management.” Commonwealth Health’s collaboration with Jefferson Neuroscience Network reduces the amount of time it takes for a neurologist to see a patient who suffered a stroke, Shah said. Smaller community hospitals have fewer neurologists and it takes time for them to come to emergency rooms to see a patient who suffered a stroke, look through the imaging and make recommendations, he said. Contact the writer: dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2115; @CVAllabaugh on Twitter

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