In the critical race with the clock to treat stroke patients, the Covenant Medical Center emergency department staff now has the advantage of real-time assistance from neurologists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Covenant became the fourth Iowa hospital to partner with the University of Iowa’s Comprehensive Stroke Center’s Telestroke program, which helps diagnose stroke patients using a mobile InTouch Health Xpress robot with a video screen for teleconferencing, pan-tilt-zoom camera, and stethoscope.

“We’ll be in contact with world-class neurologists within minutes of seeing the patients,” said Todd Lawrence, MD, Covenant’s Emergency Department medical director. “It increases our ability to make higher-level decisions about treatment and transfer. It will save lives and improve outcomes by giving advanced care sooner.”

“In a rural state like Iowa we recognized a need to bring specialized emergent time-sensitive resources to patients in their own community,” said Enrique Leira, MD, a neurologist with UI Health Care. “The UI Comprehensive Stroke Center implemented Telestroke to provide expert stroke care locally. Telestroke allows our neurologists to perform a real-time evaluation of the patient and discuss treatment options with the patient, family, and health care team at Covenant.” 

Strokes are the third leading cause of death nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control, claiming 140,000 lives annually. An estimated 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year, making it the leading cause of long-term disability. Studies done for the National Institutes of Health have found that stroke symptoms stroke can be misleading to patients and family members, as well as misdiagnosed by physicians when it is essential to get it right quickly and accurately to save lives and enhance recovery.

“If a patient has stroke-like symptoms, we’ll contact the University of Iowa immediately,” Lawrence said. “A stroke specialist there has a laptop on them at all times. When they open it up, their face will be on the robot. They will discuss the case with the physician, then see and talk with the patient and family. They can render advice based on the symptoms.”
The decision is then made to either transfer the patient to UI Hospitals and Clinics for advanced care or stay at Covenant.

Another advantage of Telestroke is avoiding unnecessary transfers.

“We are looking forward to advancing our stroke care by bringing treatment to patients with stroke symptoms earlier and, when appropriate, keeping these patients in the community to be closer to their homes and their families,” said Carol Ratchford, RN, Covenant’s emergency department manager.