Telemedicine in Baxter Regional Medical Center ambulances can help patients having a stroke

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. - Baxter Regional Medical Center has a large percentage of patients in the area on Medicare.

"This is one of the largest retirement areas in the United States," said Christopher Fry, the paramedic supervisor at BRMC. "So since we deal with so many elderly patients, it's an ideal location for a pilot program like this."

Many times first responders have a patient in the ambulance who is having a stroke.

"A stroke is kind of like a brain attack," Fry said. "When you're having that brain attack, you're going to lose the ability to speak, or see, or move. Your speech might be slurred."

The hospital partnered up with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for this pilot program. BRMC is one of two hospitals in the whole state that is using the program.

For patients who are suffering from a stroke, this telemedicine will speed up neurological care, which can end up preventing them from long-term disability or even death.

So how does it work?

To start, a camera takes a panoramic video.

"And as I as a paramedic ask questions like hold your hands out for 10 seconds, and they'll move their hands, or smile at me, or different steps of this intervention," Fry said.

Then a neurologist in Little Rock at UAMS will be watching.

"And the key is that the neurologist will then be able to make his decision and assessment mostly complete before we ever arrive at the hospital," Fry said. "Now when we do arrive at the hospital, the people here can intervene and give them medication immediately."

So emergency responders say the time they save can prevent someone from being paralyzed, or even dying.

"We look at maybe saving 20 or 30 minutes," Fry said. "But millions, literally millions of brain cells die every second that a stroke is occurring. So if we can save 20 minutes or 30 minutes off that patient's event, we are more likely to have a patient come out the other end."

Right now the technology is in two BRMC ambulances, one in Marion County and one in Baxter County.