Akron General Medical Center neurologists are delivering stroke services in Amish country without leaving Summit County.
For about six months, Akron General has been offering remote care to patients who show up in the emergency department at Pomerene Hospital in Holmes County with possible stroke symptoms.
Under an agreement with Pomerene Hospital, Akron General is providing around-the-clock neurology coverage to the community hospital in Millersburg through a new telemedicine program.
Akron General neurologists work with Pomerene’s emergency department staff to conduct neurological assessments on potential stroke patients via video conference over a secure Internet connection, said Dr. William E. Reisinger, Pomerene’s emergency department director.
The quick assessment by a specialist enables the community hospital to give patients a powerful clot-busting drug called TPA within the required three-hour window if warranted, Reisinger said.
Studies have shown qualified stroke patients who receive the medication have 30 percent better neurological outcome over a three-month period, said Dr. Norman Friedman, a staff neurologist at Akron General who participates in the telemedicine program with Pomerene Hospital.
“For acute stroke,” he said, “the key is to get them treated quickly.”
Pomerene doesn’t have a staff neurologist on site, Reisinger said. Prior to the arrangement with Akron General, stroke patients in Holmes County typically were transferred to a Canton hospital via ambulance if they needed clot-busting drugs and then taken by medical helicopter to a facility in Cleveland.
Six patients who previously would have been transferred have been able to get TPA at Pomerene Hospital since the telemedicine program started, Reisinger said. The community hospital sees about four patients per month in the emergency department with stroke symptoms.
“It gives the families confidence that a neurologist is looking after their care,” he said.
Leslie Reid, 85, of Walnut Creek, said he’s glad a neurologist from Akron General was able to examine him remotely when he suffered a stroke in November.
His wife, Jean, immediately gave him an aspirin and took him to Pomerene Hospital when he had slurred speech and a droop in his mouth.
The specialist determined Reid suffered a minor stroke, which didn’t require clot-busting medication or an immediate transfer to a bigger hospital.
“It gave us a lot of assurance because the neurologist really went through everything,” his wife said.
“That gave us a lot of confidence,” Reid agreed.
Akron General isn’t paid for the consultation service, according to hospital officials. However, the deal opens the opportunity for more patients from the Holmes County area to be transferred to Akron General if they require specialty care.
For Pomerene Hospital, the telemedicine program with Akron General enables the hospital to offer specialty services without a major investment, said Tony Snyder, the hospital’s president and chief executive. The hospital spent a couple thousand dollars on the video camera and other needed equipment.
Snyder estimates about 40 percent of residents in the hospital’s service area are Amish, making transportation to a big city hospital challenging.
“Whatever we can do appropriately in the community, we want to do that,” he said. “People would like to stay in their home community.”
Akron General is exploring opportunities to bring neurology and other specialty services to community hospitals throughout the region with telemedicine programs, said Dennis Nordquest, Akron General’s director of physician relations.
“This is a good template going forward,” he said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.