Telehealth Network Helps Rural Stroke Patients in Illinois

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Kate O'Hara
(217) 403-6205
Good Shepherd Hospital

The summer day was heating up when Shelbyville resident Orville Fulk had a stroke. Recognizing the drooping face and garbled speech as critical signs, his wife Kathy called the paramedics and got Fulk to the local hospital, just minutes away. Good Shepherd Hospital, which is part of the Illinois and Wisconsin-based Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS), helped stabilize his condition. An hour from Shelbyville at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Fulk received tPA, a clot-busting drug that helps blood return to the brain. According to the CDC, if tPA is administered within 3 hours, a stroke victim’s likelihood of full recovery improves, potentially reducing the need for long-term care in a nursing home.

When Fulk had his stroke in 2013, HSHS and the Illinois Telehealth Network (ITN) were developing an extensive telestroke network. Through the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program (DLT), HSHS St. John’s Hospital received over $320,000 in grant funds to provide telestroke equipment at 6 rural hospitals. By May 2015, 14 hospitals had activated robots. With these robots, an offsite neurologist could examine the stroke victim, review CT scans, and recommend treatment within minutes of a patient’s arrival.

HSHS’s "door-to-needle" goal is to have the patient evaluated and, if necessary, treated with tPA within 60 minutes of arrival. In the 24 months following the activation of the first robots in 2014, the number of months in which HSHS met its goal tripled, compared to data on the 24 months prior to the system’s launch. At times, the average door-to-needle time across the hospitals was as short as 29 minutes.

"Anytime a hospital can keep a patient local, it should," said Julie Edwards, MBA, the ITN Network Director and Telemedicine Coordinator at HSHS St. John’s Hospital. Records show that over 1,700 emergency room patients in the 14 hospital network have now received care from a remote neurology specialist. As collaboration across hospitals increases, rural locations are increasingly able to leverage resources to secure federal funding, diversify services, keep doors open, and ultimately, save lives.

Fast Facts

Obligation Amount$154,497.00
Date of ObligationSeptember 2015
Congressional DistrictDavis, IL-13, Shimkus, IL-15, LaHood IL-18
Senator's Last NamesDurbin and Duckworth