Sparks touts telemedicine benefits to Beebe

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 154 views 

Arkansas and Oklahoma medical personnel on Wednesday (Jan. 25) made a 30-minute  presentation that resulted in Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe suggesting their model for stroke treatment could represent the future of medicine.

Dr. Margaret Tremwel, a physician at Sparks Health System and leading neurologist in the field of stroke management, worked with Sparks CEO Melody Trimble and officials with Sequoyah Memorial Hospital in Sallisaw, Okla., to explain to Beebe the benefits of a regional telemedicine network.

The network, according to information from Sparks, has “preserved or save the lives” of 41 regional residents between January and November 2011. The 10 hospitals participating in the network are Sparks, Sequoyah Medical, Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center in Poteau, Okla.; Memorial Hospital in Adair, Okla.; Choctaw Nation Health Center, Talihina, Okla.; Haskell County Healthcare System, Stigler, Okla.; Mena Regional Medical Center, Booneville Community Hospital, Johnson Regional Medical Center, Clarksville, Ark/; and Dardanelle Hospital.

Beebe was in Fort Smith to address the first ever Arkansas and Oklahoma Aerospace Business-to-Business Expo, but took time to be briefed on the unique telemedicine network based out of Sparks.

Networking the hospitals and doctors allows Sparks’ certified stroke team to best direct and manage stroke treatment among the hospital systems in an about 50-mile radius.

Eric Carter, director of nursing at Sequoyah, participated in the briefing for Beebe via a live feed from the emergency room in the Sallisaw hospital. He said an “instantaneous” feed of vital signs and other data is shared with Tremwel and her colleagues at Sparks so appropriate treatment begins in less than 10 minutes.

Once a patient is stabilized at any of the hospitals in the network, their care is monitored and managed as they are transported, via helicopter or ambulance, to Sparks.

Not only has the system saved lives, but it saves money with respect to reducing long-term care necessary for damage suffered from inadequate stroke treatment. Trimble said less than $200,000 has been spent on the program, with some of that from inkind services. For example, Oklahoma State University provided some of the equipment used at Sequoyah Memorial.

Sparks was one of the first 11 hospitals in the U.S. to be accredited as a primary stroke center. Their support of networked hospitals has improved the status of other hospitals. Sequoyah Memorial has been certified as a center of excellence in Oklahoma, one of 26 out of 147 hospitals in the state to receive the notice.

“This is an example of what regionalization of health care can do,” Tremwel told Beebe, adding that regionalization is better than a centralized system that sends patients to a more distant location.

Tremwel and Trimble also told Beebe that the nationwide average for strokes-to-cause of death is 47 per 1,000 deaths, but in Sebastian County the rate has fallen to 43 per 1,000 deaths.

“This is what has to happen in the future of health care,” Beebe said near the end of the program.

Trimble said the telemedicine network will soon include cardiology and pulmonology. Tremwel and Trimble also said a home health system using telemedicine could reduce costs and raise service quality for home-bound sufferers of chronic diseases.

Donna Bragg, spokesperson for Sparks, also invited Beebe to return on March 2 when the hospital will open its new $17 million surgery center that features robotic surgery and other advanced equipment.