The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 8, 2013

Windber joining Geisinger to treat stroke patients

WINDBER — Stroke patients now have immediate access to the highest level of care when they are brought to Windber Medical Center.

A new telemedicine program unveiled Monday brings the expertise of Geisinger Health System’s renowned stroke specialists into Windber’s emergency department through a secure video monitoring system and direct connection to patients’ test readouts.

By collaborating with Windber’s doctors treating the patient, the Geisinger team is able to order treatment more quickly, said Dr. Edgar Kenton, a neurologist with the Danville-based health system.

“Time is brain,” Kenton said. “We can begin treatment as though we were right there in the same room.”

For many patients whose strokes do not include a brain hemorrhage, Kenton explained, administering an injection of clot-busting TPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, within the first three hours can double the chances of a strong recovery.

“Being able to get that medicine into them as quickly as possible will save brain cells,” said Mary Lee Dadey, vice president of nursing services at Windber.

Windber joins six other hospitals, including two Geisinger affiliates, as part of Geisinger’s growing tele-stroke network, Kenton said.

“It is proven care and it brings expertise to those communities,” Kenton said. “It makes the hospitals in those communities more effective for their patients. We can keep (patients) in their own community and get the information to their doctors.”

After their initial treatment in Windber’s emergency room, many stroke patients can continue their recovery while being treated in the hospital’s in-patient rooms and outpatient rehabilitation program. Others may require in interventional procedure, or stent placement, by a neurologist. Some may require an operation by a neurosurgeon.

Although Geisinger’s team stands ready to accept patients transferred by ambulance or helicopter, Kenton stressed patients are free to select their own tertiary referral hospital.

“We have the expertise and we have the staff to do it,” Kenton said, adding that patients will already have a connection with Geisinger’s neurologists.

Dadey said she expects many patients will continue to transfer to Conemaugh Health System’s Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, which is currently Windber’s main referral hospital for stroke patients.

Geisinger’s program allows Windber to expand its services in the community, hospital President and CEO Barbara Cliff said. The collaboration with Geisinger is not a step toward a merger with the Danville system, she stressed.

“If you look at the Geisinger Health System, they provide telemedicine services to smaller hospitals throughout the state because they are leaders in that area,” Cliff said.

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