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Long Prairie’s Telestroke/Vascular Neurology Clinic expands to 8 communities

Published in Media Releases Author: CentraCare

The Telestroke/Vascular Neurology Clinic is achieving its expansion goals in the second year of a program made possible by a $540,000 three-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Health Care Services Outreach Grant Program.

Since late 2015, post-stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) patients receiving follow-up care at CentraCare Health – Long Prairie have been to take advantage of a new telehealth patient navigator program. The primary goal of the program is to improve access to care and health outcomes among patients recovering from stroke or TIA who reside in Chippewa, Pope, Swift, Todd, Wadena, and parts of Stearns counties in Central Minnesota.

While the program is based out of Long Prairie, a total of four CentraCare locations -- including Paynesville, Melrose and Sauk Centre – all ramped at the same time. Then, in December 2016, Glacial Ridge Health System in Glenwood’s program was implemented. Tri-County Health’s program in Wadena is set to launch this month. This spring the Telestroke/Vascular Neurology Clinic services will expand to Swift County-Benson Health Services in Benson and Lakewood Health System in Staples.

When fully implemented, this program will be available in eight hospital and seven home care agencies in the grant’s service area.

It’s been a busy implementation process for Sarah Zastrow, an RN who is the program’s patient navigator. More than 40 patients have taken advantage of this telehealth service since the program began. About two-thirds of the patients have been male with the average age being 65, typical of the general stroke population.

“When the patients and providers in these rural locations notice the first signs of a stroke in the ER, they are referred immediately to a telestroke program site within the service area,” Zastrow noted.

Through the technology provided by telehealth equipment, a CentraCare stroke provider is able to assess and monitor the patients’ heart rates, breath sounds, observe mobility in arms and legs, and check vision and hearing.

Patients are enrolled in the program within five to seven days after they are discharged to their homes and Zastrow will work with the patient and his or her health care providers and family to manage the care needed. This may be done in the office face-to-face, via telephone, or via video-conferencing using telemedicine equipment.

Initially, patients choose their follow-up appointment through telemedicine for the convenience, but recently, some are finding it familiar as they experienced something similar in their local emergency department when they had a stroke,” Zastrow said.

Patients are able to stay in their hometowns and visit their primary care providers in local offices as they always have, but visits with specialists such as neurologists will be via the telehealth equipment.