Sparks Physician Publishes Telemedicine Presentation

FORT SMITH, Ark. (June 21, 2013) – Sparks Health System is sharing its award-winning stroke care.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the state and Arkansas has the highest death rate from stroke in the nation. 

To combat these statistics, Sparks Regional Medical Center developed the Arkansas-Oklahoma Healthcare Consortium to provide stroke care via telemedicine to rural and suburban hospitals in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma that lack neurologists.

At the recent American Telemedicine Association Conference, Margaret Tremwel, M.D., PhD, medical director of the Sparks Stroke Program, presented research supporting that providing telemedicine services for stroke improves patient access to stroke treatment with the same high quality care as provided by Joint Commission-certified Primary Stroke Centers.

A treatment known as tissue Plasminogen Activator (t-PA) can reverse or minimize the disability caused by stroke when given to patients via their veins, but it must be administered within four and a half hours from the onset of stroke symptoms.   

Currently in the United States only a maximum of 5 percent of stroke patients receive this life-saving therapy, according to the study.  To be effective, t-PA must be given to stroke patients within four-and-a-half hours from the onset of symptoms, and the American Heart Association recommends the treatment be given by trained professionals, preferably neurologists. 

Dr. Tremwel’s study of patient data showed the quality of patient care in rural telemedicine hospitals is comparable to that provided by a Joint Commission-certified stroke center.  The study shows telemedicine reduces time from stroke symptom onset to delivery of t-PA, and provides greater access to specially trained neurological physicians.

Sparks Regional Medical Center is a Certified Primary Stroke Center and has earned the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission.  The hospital has also received the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for three straight years. 

The following hospitals currently partner or are working toward partnering with the Sparks stroke telemedicine program: Sequoyah Memorial Hospital, Sallisaw, Okla.; Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center, Poteau, Okla.; Haskell County Healthcare System, Stigler, Okla.; Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, Talihina, Okla.; Booneville Community Hospital, Booneville, Ark.; Johnson Regional Medical Center, Clarksville, Ark.; Mena Regional Health System, Mena, Ark.; Memorial Hospital, Stilwell, Okla.; River Valley Medical Center, Dardanelle, Ark.; Summit Medical Center, Van Buren, Ark.; Northwest Medical Center, Springdale, Ark.