Telemedicine Puts a Neurologist in Every Room

David Olson went to St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor for treatment of suspected pneumonia. The traumatic brain injury he sustained from an accident at work a few years prior put him at risk. While in the hospital he couldn't take his usual medicine for the brain injury because he had difficulty swallowing. When he became rigid as a result, his doctors were concerned. They feared that David might have a condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which can be fatal.

His doctors needed a neurologist to evaluate him. There were two choices: he could be transferred to another hospital for evaluation, but that would involve a risky hour-long ambulance ride and triple the travel time for his wife. Or he could have a telemedicine consult, which uses web-based video technology, with the Franciscan medical director for neurology, Seth Stankus, DO.

Launched in March 2011, the Franciscan Telemedicine Care program helps keep patients close to their homes and families during their hospital stay, while they also receive the best specialized care available. 'There aren't enough neurologists in the South Sound to be located in all the hospitals,' Dr. Stankus explains. 'So we are being virtually inserted into the hospital through telemedicine.'

Telemedicine consults feature two-way video transmissions, whereby an off-site neurologist examines a patient by directing the attending physician who is with the patient at the hospital. In real time, physicians and patients see and hear the neurologist on a computer. Likewise, the neurologist sees and hears patients on his or her computer. It's a lot like using Skype with video, but the quality is better and the connection is secure to protect patient privacy.

David was the first patient at St. Anthony Hospital to benefit from a telemedicine consult. David's wife, Janet, was present for the telemedicine consult as well. 'Dr. Stankus was able to see what David was capable of doing, right from his bedside,' she says. And because David stayed close to home, she was able to get her daughter to school on time and be there for the rest of his hospital stay.

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Janet and David Olson
Janet and David Olson