When a person is experiencing symptoms of stroke, time to treatment is critical. A patient often requires immediate consultation with a neurological specialist, but in rural communities that access can be limited. Now, Carondelet Neurological Institute, in collaboration with three rural hospitals in Southern Arizona, has initiated a state-of-the-art service to rural communities in the form of a TeleStroke program.

“Hospitals in Nogales, Safford and Sierra Vista now have unique access to the neurologists at Carondelet Neurological Institute,” notes Robert P. Goldfarb, M.D., Chairman of Carondelet Neurological Institute on the campus of St. Joseph’s Hospital. “At a moment’s notice, the Institute’s specialists are available for a live, remote neurological consultation using the very latest in Web technology.”

“In Southern Arizona, we live in a very rural society. Towns are spread apart and, in most cases, people don’t have access to expert neurological care,” adds L. Rod Anderson, M.D., Medical Director of Carondelet Neurological Institute’s Stroke Center. “Stroke does not discriminate. You can’t be hesitant. You need expertise quickly.”

“Unfortunately, not all hospitals have neurological specialists on site. Now, with TeleStroke capabilities, they do,” says Andy Cosentino, Neurosciences Executive, Carondelet Health Network. “These hospitals now have immediate access to the neurologists at Carondelet Neurological Institute - face to face - via the web. This is a capability we could only have dreamed of a few years ago.”

Here is how it works: When a person experiencing symptoms of stroke -- such as sudden headache, numbness of the face, arm or leg, difficulty speaking, or loss of vision – arrive at their own community hospital, the hospital’s on-site Emergency Room Stroke Team is activated and brain CT scanning is performed. With the patient’s consent, a TeleStroke link, using videoconferencing and image sharing technology, is launched. The TeleStroke system has several features: a brain imaging review, remote examination via video conferencing and the ability to immediate transfer digital images between the Emergency Department and the neurologist at Carondelet Neurological Institute.

Carondelet’s TeleStroke program is now offered in the following communities: Sierra Vista, Safford and Nogales; the result of clinical partnerships between Carondelet Neurological Institute and its three healthcare partners: Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in Sierra Vista, Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford, and Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales.

“This capability will enable our residents to receive expert neurological care in the ‘golden hour’ when the need for appropriate diagnosis and immediate treatment can often make the difference between a lifelong disability and a return to normalcy,” reflects Margaret Hepburn, President and CEO of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center. “Our clinical teams and local physicians have been working aggressively with the Institute’s team to bring this program to life in Sierra Vista. I am really proud to see it come to fruition.”

“It’s important to the health and welfare of our community for Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center to build relationships with partners who provide state-of-the-art technology and expertise that might not otherwise be available to our residents,” says Patrick Peters, CEO of Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford, Ariz. “That’s part of our mission and our commitment to community.”

“All of this advanced technology allows the neurological specialists and the hospital physicians in rural communities to work together in a way that provides the best outcomes for these patients,” according to Dr. Goldfarb. He adds, “In the end, all this technology has one simple purpose - saving lives.”

About Carondelet Health Network
Located in Tucson, Arizona, Carondelet Health Network is a Catholic, nonprofit health care system dedicated to responding to the health care needs of Southern Arizonans. With a Mission to Heal, Carondelet was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet 130 years ago. Carondelet Health Network facilities include Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital, Carondelet St. Joseph's Hospital, Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute and Carondelet Neurological Institute on the campus of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson and Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales, Arizona. Other Carondelet services include nearly fourteen Carondelet Medical Group primary care locations, three Carondelet Specialist Group offices, an ambulatory surgery center and various outpatient services. Carondelet Health Network is a ministry of Ascension Health, the nation's largest Catholic, non-profit health care system. In Fiscal Year 2010, Carondelet provided nearly $50 million (8.3 percent of its net revenue) in Community Benefit to improve the health of our community and increase access to health care. More information about Carondelet Health Network is available at www.carondelet.org.