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Friday, October 28, 2016 - Roper St. Francis Healthcare and MUSC join forces to treat stroke patients
The day after Hurricane Matthew passed, many Charleston residents gave a sigh of relief.

But Sue Borum wasn’t feeling any relief. She was feeling dizzy and frightened. She felt like she was having a stroke. 

The 82-year-old West Ashley resident was rushed to Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital where nurses and physicians wasted no time. They rolled a cart equipped with the latest technology over to Borum’s bed, and within a few short minutes, she was speaking face to face with Dr. Erin Sparks, Roper St. Francis neuro-hospitalist, who was at Roper Hospital downtown.

“They did not delay,” Borum said of her caregivers. “They went into action. It was comforting to talk to a doctor right away.”

MUSC Health and Roper St. Francis Healthcare have developed an advanced stroke care team collaboration that is expected to lead to better care for patients, improved outcomes, decreased costs and fewer transfers among facilities. The partnership is focused on sharing resources, clinical expertise and technology to improve and expand stroke care in our community and across the state.

“We have broken down barriers between two hospital systems and joined forces to provide the highest level of care to every stroke patient in the Lowcountry,” said Dr. Erin Sparks, a neurology hospitalist who helped in creating the stroke care team collaboration. “Most importantly, we are making a huge difference in the lives of our patients by offering them the best chance possible in recovering from a stroke.”

At the crux of the partnership is the telestroke program that ensures patients are seen and treated quicker than ever.

In the past, patients arriving at a Roper St. Francis Healthcare emergency room who were suffering stroke symptoms were evaluated by an ER physician and then a neurologist on-call was contacted. Now, with the addition of telestroke carts, the neurologist can log on to the system and start examining the patients within minutes of the patient arriving to the ER.

“The fact is that 1.9 million neurons – or brain cells — are destroyed each minute that passes when someone is having a large stroke,” Dr. Sparks said. “This is why we say ‘time is brain.’ When literally every minute counts, you want to be able to make the right treatment decision as soon as possible.”

The way the collaboration between MUSC and Roper St. Francis Healthcare  will work is Roper St. Francis neuro-hospitalists will participate in MUSC’s telestroke network by providing telestroke services to other hospitals in the region, and MUSC Neurologists will cover some Roper St. Francis Healthcare telestroke consultations. Physicians in both healthcare systems will provide telestroke services at Roper St. Francis Healthcare and other hospitals in the region.

Championed by hospital and clinical leaders, this partnership involves multidisciplinary departments, teams and providers from both healthcare systems, including: emergency room physicians and clinical staff, hospitalists, neuro-hospitalists, intensivists, neurosurgeons, critical care and stroke unit nurses, telestroke teams, radiologists and radiology staff, as well as teammates in information services, EMS, laboratory and bed management.

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