Above photo: Stroke neurologist Dr. Sam Yip demonstrates the Telestroke camera equipment.
Around 1.8 million brain cells are lost every minute when a person is having a stroke, so quick decision-making is paramount. VCH is in the final stages of a redesign to implement Canadian stroke best practice guidelines across the region – including more remote areas of the province. Implementing Telestroke at Sechelt Hospital is one little piece in improving access for stroke care for patients living on the Sunshine Coast. The closer we can keep the treatment to home the better.
In the past, physicians would pick up the phone and call the stroke neurologist at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) for advice, and patients needed to be transferred there for treatment. Now the physician at VGH can actually turn a camera on and talk directly to the patient, move the camera back and forth to assess them, and make a decision. Patients can also now receive initial treatment (the clot-busting drug TPA) at Sechelt Hospital, and then be transported to Vancouver General Hospital or Lions Gate Hospital for post-stroke care.
There were a lot of moving parts and processes to implement Telestroke – it was so much more than just turning a camera on! The My VCH Project approach helped us be very focused with what the milestones were, what the timelines were, and really kept things moving forward. That's the big benefit from the process – it keeps all your eyes focused on where they need to be to keep moving things along.
My biggest piece of advice would be to reach out to someone who's been through the process to help you navigate the system. Oh, and definitely go to your weekly initiative owner meetings. In our project we didn't have too many hiccups, but I certainly valued the checking in – and occasional push – to get things done. Don't be scared of the process! It's a big change in the way we do business but it is definitely an improvement.
Right after we launched, a patient from the Sunshine Coast had a stroke and the new system was used for the first time. It was a huge success, and everybody was able to celebrate a good patient outcome. It's a really nice feeling to actually see a project be implemented so quickly and have an impact right away.
It's important to add that while I may have been the point person moving the project through the My VCH Projects approach system, it wasn't me who did all the work. The projects team – as well as the staff at Sechelt and VGH – were amazing. Without them none of this would have been possible, and so it's great to see things already making a difference for patients.
Project Name: Telestroke at Sechelt Hospital
Initiative Owner: Jackie Murray, Regional Program Leader, Critical Care and Medicine Programs