CentraCare Health to expand Telestroke/Vascular Neurology Clinic to 8 new sites with help from $560,000 federal grant

Published in Media Releases Author: CentraCare

CentraCare Health is rolling out its Telestroke/Vascular Neurology Clinic to eight new sites, organizing a collaborative network of 16 different locations that will blanket much of rural Minnesota with coverage for people who suffer a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack).

With the help of a three-year federal grant totaling more than $560,000, patients across a 12-county area will be able to access specialists such as neurologists via telemedicine equipment. Patients will be able to stay in their hometowns instead of traveling to St. Cloud Hospital.

The grant, which comes from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program, will provide for telestroke outreach and navigation efforts at:

  • CentraCare Health-Monticello
  • Appleton Area Healthcare Services
  • CHI-St. Gabriel’s Health (Little Falls)
  • Douglas County Hospital (Alexandria)
  • Madison Healthcare Services
  • Renville County Hospitals and Clinics (Olivia)
  • Rice Memorial Hospital (Willmar)
  • Riverwood Healthcare (Aitkin)

The expansion of the sites is expected to take about two years. 

The stroke care navigation will be based at CentraCare Health-Long Prairie, which received this grant on the heels of a similar telemedicine grant in 2015. CentraCare Health launched its telemedicine efforts with the help of a 2013 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, and St. Cloud Hospital will continue to be the telestroke hub site for the network. CCH neurologists can assess and monitor patients’ heart rates, breath sounds, mobility, vision and hearing with the telemedicine equipment.

The rest of the existing sites include:

  • CentraCare Health-Melrose
  • CentraCare Health-Paynesville
  • CentraCare Health-Sauk Centre
  • Glacial Ridge Health System (Glenwood)
  • Lakewood Health System (Staples)
  • Swift County-Benson Hospital
  • Tri-County Health Care (Wadena)

The expansion covers Wright, Morrison, Douglas, Renville, Kandiyohi, Aitkin and Lac qui Parle counties. In addition to the existing network serving Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Pope and Swift counties, this means more than 11,000 square miles and almost 500,000 people will have access to telehealth services. The expansion alone adds almost 7,000 square miles and covers more than a quarter-million people. Services vary at each new site and include telestroke, behavioral health, geriatric psychiatry and post-stroke. Madison Healthcare Services and Riverwood Healthcare do not currently have the telestroke services available in their Emergency Departments but will by the time the grant is complete in 2021. Learn more about telestroke services at CentraCare Health.

St. Cloud Hospital provides the specialty providers who perform the services via telehealth, as well as 24/7 information systems support. Services at the existing sites includes telestroke, post-stroke and the Virtual Multi-Specialty Clinic, which includes cardiology, urology, infectious disease, oncology, neurosurgery and emergency department access to behavioral health at CCH-Melrose, CCH-Sauk Centre, CCH-Paynesville and CCH-Long Prairie. Glacial Ridge Health System, Lakewood Health System, Swift County Benson Health Services and Tri-County Health Care all have telestroke and the post-stroke services.

Sarah Zastrow, an RN who leads the clinic, contacts patients within a week of their discharge from the St. Cloud Hospital Stroke Center and makes sure patients understand their discharge instructions, medications and follow-up appointments, and connects them with resources for equipment, transportation and other services.

“Rural Minnesotans often face unique challenges when it comes to getting the healthcare services they need,” State Senator Tina Smith said. “That’s why I pushed the Health Resources and Services Administration to fund an initiative at CentraCare Health that would expand stroke care to more rural areas through telehealth. I’m glad to see that this project was funded and that more people in Central Minnesota will have access to these critical services.”

Without the Telestroke/Vascular Neurology Clinic, many elderly patients would be left on their own and unsure of how to care for themselves in these rural areas and they would have to find transportation to get to St. Cloud. And many lack an understanding of what to do, who to call, and how to even begin to the navigate the system of care. Zastrow can connect them locally with therapies, medicines and other services.

“This is a step forward for rural Minnesotans who unacceptably have to travel hours in order to receive the care they need," State Representative Tom Emmer said. "I look forward to CentraCare using these new technologies and targeted resources to address Minnesota's health care needs using evidence-based models of care.”