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HealthAlliance Hospital brings stroke care close to home


LEOMINSTER — HealthAlliance Hospital is bringing the highest level of stroke care to emergency room patients without them having to travel far from home.

To help improve the care of acute stroke patients and increase the likelihood that these patients receive prompt care, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has designated HealthAlliance Hospital as a Primary Stroke Services Center. This designation is made possible by the sharing of physicians and technology with UMass Memorial Medical Center via an advanced digital video medicine service with Brain Saving Technologies (BST) of Wellesley Hills, Mass.

Hospitals that provide a Primary Stroke Service must ensure that emergency diagnostic and therapeutic services are provided by a multidisciplinary team and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to patients presenting with symptoms of acute stroke.

The video monitoring system, also called a telemedicine system, enables on-call neurologists with expertise in stroke diagnosis and management at UMass Memorial and BST to examine and talk to an emergency patient or the family as well as the doctor in real time at HealthAlliance Hospital. A mobile unit in HealthAlliance Hospital’s emergency department is wheeled bedside so that the doctors can see the patient and make a diagnosis.

“Community hospitals have recognized the incredible need within their communities for fast, effective treatment of stroke,” said Dr. Colin T. McDonald, founder, chief executive officer and chief medical officer of BST. “The addition of this advanced technology and 24/7 real-time access to neuro-critical care specialists provides this network of community hospitals with the resources to meet the state’s recently enacted Primary Stroke Service criteria.”

Donald Jackel, DO, Department Chairman of Emergency Services at HealthAlliance Hospital agreed, and is excited to have the Neuro Critical Care System as a backup. “During the trial run, we found it very effective in improving emergency diagnostic procedures and providing more timely treatment.”

Both the emergency room physician and neurologist also can view CT and MRI scans, enabling them to work collaboratively throughout the patient care process. Once a diagnosis is made, the doctors decide on the most effective treatment plan, hoping to quickly lessen the symptoms and outcomes of the stroke. HealthAlliance Hospital and UMass Memorial doctors assist in assessment, diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. In 2005, Americans will pay about $57 billion for stroke-related medical costs and disability. It is a leading cause of severe, long-term disability.