Holzer unveils ‘Stroke Robot’ technology

By Michael Johnson

May 19, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — When it comes to treating a stroke victim, time is of the essence.

Because quick care is so urgent with stroke victims, Holzer’s emergency rooms in Gallipolis and Jackson now feature a TeleStroke — or a “Stroke Robot” — to deliver that quickness that is needed.

Holzer has teamed up with The Ohio State University’s TeleStroke Collaborative to help bring rapid access to advanced stroke care so readily available in Columbus to southeastern Ohio. During a Monday morning press conference in the hospital’s French 500 room, Holzer officials said the “Stroke Robot” serves as a direct link to OSU’s Wexner Medical Center for patients who arrive at either of Holzer’s ERs with stroke symptoms.

“When a suspected stroke patient arrives at a Holzer emergency department, a ‘stroke alert’ is activated at both Ohio State and Holzer, which mobilizes a team of stroke experts who, through the use of real-time testing and patient interviews, can help the care team determine the best treatment option of the patient, said Dr. Gregory Mickunas, Holzer’s medical director for emergency and urgent care services. “By having this resource available, we are able to treat our patients quickly and effectively, and essentially save lives.”

Mickunas said upon a patient’s arrival in the ER, doctors are able to bring the robot into the exam room, where stroke experts at OSU are able to interact with both the patient and on-site doctors and nurses. The robot’s head — a computer monitor equipped with a camera, speakers and a microphone — is able to swivel, allowing its operators at OSU freedom to look around the room as though they actually in the exam room. The monitor is equipped for two-way communication, allowing the patient to see the OSU doctor and vice versa.

During Monday’s press conference, Dr. Michel Torbey, medical director of OSU’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurovascular Stroke Center, delivered an introduction about the new technology and what it means for rural hospitals in southeastern Ohio.

“When we talk about stroke, time is key in delivering acute therapy,” he said. “In hospitals like (Gallipolis and Jackson), where you’re really further out from comprehensive stroke centers, the ability to have this kind of expertise at bedside is difficult and challenging. The TeleStroke will allow us to bring the specialized stroke expertise to the bedside at Holzer in a fast and efficient way.”

Torbey said there is one robot in Gallipolis and one in Jackson, and he expects one will be placed in Holzer’s new facility that is being built in Meigs County.

“I can’t express enough the critical nature of time,” said Dr. T. Wayne Munro, chief executive officer of Holzer Health Systems. “We have to have a decision made very quickly whether we give a clot-busting drug or not (to a patient) because there can be all kinds of problems if you give it when it’s not needed. There are some adverse outcomes that could happen if you give it to the wrong person at the wrong time.”.

Gretchen Nutter, executive director of the emergency department, said the robot has already been used in Holzer’s ER facility in Jackson.

“We’ve undergone extensive training (with the robot) in both Gallipolis and Jackson, so we are able to recognize these patients and initiate the care,” she said. “We have not yet used the robot in Gallipolis, but we have used it a couple of times in Jackson. It’s gone very well. The staff and physicians were very impressed with the outcomes.”

Ohio State serves as the hub of the TeleStroke Collaborative, providing immediate access to board certified vascular neurologists who can provide real-time consultation to physicians at community hospitals using video equipment and stroke protocols. Should a patient need advance-level care, a transfer to OSU is arranged.

“I can’t express enough the critical nature of time. We have to have that decision made very quickly,” said Dr. T. Wayne Munro, chief executive officer of Holzer Health Systems, “whether we give the clot-busting drug or not because there can be all kinds of problems if you give it when it’s not needed. There are some adverse outcomes that could happen if you give it to the wrong person at the wrong time.”

OSU’s Wexner Medical Center was the first academic medical center in Ohio to go live with TeleStroke and the first health system to extend their network beyond affiliate hospitals.

One of the top risk factors for stroke, according to press materials distributed by Holzer, is high blood pressure. Signs of stroke include sudden severe headache with no known cause, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

“We are very much appreciative of having a partnership with OSU to help us make those decisions so our patients can do well. Nobody wants to have a stroke and have a poor outcome,” Munro said. “If we can do something to mitigate the stroke or its negative effects, that’s what we want to do.”