Collaboration Saves Lives
It’s not every day that medical providers get to hear the firsthand account of what their patient experienced during a stroke. But that unique perspective is exactly what Ted Wilson provided after his successful recovery from a stroke in October 2020. Ted’s remarkably lucid memory of everything from his initial symptoms to the CT scans and medication discussions among his providers, opens a window into the patient experience. Ted expressed deep gratitude for his care team and especially recalled the skillful collaboration between doctors, nurses, technicians, paramedics, and even a telestroke robot.
Long before COVID-19 made telehealth a daily reality for many healthcare providers, stroke neurologists and emergency physicians were accustomed to connecting via telestroke for acute stroke treatment. Providence Stroke Center, a nationally recognized center of excellence for stroke care, began building a telestroke network in 2010. The network grew to over 20 hospitals around Oregon and Washington, including Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center where Ted Wilson received his life-saving stroke care.
Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center is an accredited stroke center providing care in Corvallis, OR and surrounding areas. In 2015, Samaritan Health Services partnered with Providence to elevate stroke care across its five hospitals. This partnership gives 24/7 access to a stroke neurologist to support onsite physicians in making time-sensitive, critical stroke care decisions. Providence and Samaritan’s partnership results in more efficient and comprehensive care, which minimizes disability as a result of stroke.
This collaboration made all the difference for Ted on that night when his stroke began in his sleep. Still awake and reading next to him in bed, Ted’s wife Ellen responded quickly. As she recognized the symptoms and called an ambulance, Ted awoke feeling like “the bootup to normal consciousness was twisted and slow”.
“I heard and saw Ellen talking to me but could not form words in my head, let alone utter them,” Ted recalled. “It was scary, but Ellen’s urgent yet calm response kept it from being terrifying.” Ellen’s 911 call set in motion the response that would ensure Ted’s successful treatment and recovery. EMS notified the hospital, which prepared for Ted’s arrival. Waiting at the door to quickly assess Ted and send him for emergent CT was Samaritan’s stroke team including Trey Woods, D.O. and Cameron Fehr, R.N. They immediately consulted with Dr. Lisa Yanase, stroke neurologist with Providence Stroke Center, by telestroke robot.
Ted described this digital teamwork as a “surreal but purpose-driven scene [that] filled me with internal laughter and joy that cut through a tense personal moment.” Fehr agreed, saying that “the collaboration between the paramedics, nurses, emergency physician Dr. Woods and the Providence neurologist was timely and fluid. This teamwork is a nod to the efficiency and patient care we strive for every day in our stroke care. I cannot think of a better crew and team to work with."
Dr. Woods also noted the importance of patients and families who can self-advocate. "The patient and his wife were able to assess the risks and benefits of the interventions offered, and they opted for treatment. They were both great advocates for him as well, and I think we owe that to some of the education in our community. As we know, 'time is brain', and this is a great example of when minutes make a difference. I couldn’t be more proud or pleased with all of the people involved."
To Ted, the team seemed “organized, efficient, respectful and most importantly effective. This made a huge difference for me. I couldn’t speak, but I was still in there. Internal access to language had returned, and I was bursting with questions.” After receiving clot-busting medication, Ted improved rapidly over the next few hours. In his recovery room, a new team took over his care. “In those moments full of restored ability, Ellen and I showered my care givers with questions and conversation. We were received with grace, patience, and answers.”
According to Dr. Yanase, there has long been a national shortage of neurologists, which is why the past 10 years of telestroke implementation made a measurable difference in stroke care, improving recovery and saving lives. “Our experience with telemedicine allowed us to support our partner providers in the sudden pivot to virtual care during COVID-19,” she says. “This shift has proven invaluable to caring for people in remote parts of our large state, and I expect that the convenience and accessibility of telehealth services will only be expanded, even as the pandemic wanes.”
Ted’s story reads like a play-by-play of the ideal collaboration among healthcare professionals across hospital systems and the technological tools that connect them. It is what we might all hope to see more of in the future – life-saving collaboration born of a deadly pandemic.