Teleneurology comes to Elizabethton

Published 10:38 am Thursday, April 16, 2015

Contributed Photo/MSHA Teleneurology will allow Vanderbilt neurologists to do a live consultation and examination with patients and caregivers at Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

Contributed Photo/MSHA
Teleneurology will allow Vanderbilt neurologists to do a live consultation and examination with patients and caregivers at Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

Local residents now have the opportunity to get world-class neurological care without having to leave their home community to get treatment.

Sycamore Shoals Hospital is now one of two local hospitals partnering with Vanderbilt University Medical Center to offer neurology services for patients through the use of teleneurology.

When a patient comes to the emergency room at Sycamore Shoals with stroke symptoms, seizures or severe headache, the hospital’s staff will now have access to the board-certified neurologists on staff at Vanderbilt through a live video feed.

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The protocol for the teleneurology program will allow the physician at Sycamore Shoals to contact the on-call neurologist at Vanderbilt for consultation and patient assessment, just as if the neurologist were present at the local hospital.

The neurologist will use a secure internet connection to participate in a Facetime session through an iPad to perform the physical examination and assessment. Using the video conference will allow the neurologist to visually examine the patient and interact with them with the aid of a physician or nurse at Sycamore Shoals. The doctor at Sycamore Shoals can also send digital copies of a patients records or any test results to the neurologist at Vanderbilt if necessary.

“It is a vast improvement over what we were able to do before for patients who have these types of problems,” said Corey Paulson, marketing and communications director at Sycamore Shoals. “It is an opportunity to keep local patients local and treat them in their home community, which is something we couldn’t do before.”

The partnership with Vanderbilt is one that will benefit many people in the region said Dwane Taylor, vice president and CEO fo MSHA’s Southeast Market, which includes Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

“This is an exciting opportunity for both Sycamore Shoals Hospital and residents of Carter, Johnson, and Unicoi counties,” he said. “Our partnership with Vanderbilt will allow patients needing these services to be treated closer to home, rather than being transferred to another facility for care.”

This new technology is one that is critically needed in the area, considering every minute counts when dealing with strokes and seizures, said Dr. Kent Wright, the chief medical officer for MSHA’s Southeast Market.

“Early intervention, a lot of times, is a key to success in treating victims of stroke,” he said. “Not only will these patients be able to receive world-class neurological care, but they will be able to be treated much earlier now, thanks to this new partnership.”

Not only does the teleneurology program take advantage of cutting edge medical and computer technology, the practice is becoming more commonplace.

There is a widespread shortage of neurologists, so teleneurology is becoming a new standard of care for hospitals that don’t have their own specialists on site, said Dr. David Charles, director of telemedicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and chief medical officer for the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Institute.

“With this collaboration, Mountain States is being creative and taking the lead in finding ways to meet the needs of patients in the area,” he said.

The teleneurology program went live at Sycamore Shoals in March and has already seen a few patients.

“We’ve had four cases and they have all gone very well,” Paulson said. “We’ve done about one a week, which has been good.”

The other hospital taking part in the partnership is Franklin Woods Hospital, a Mountain States Health Alliance facility located in Johnson City.