Local Hospital Launches Telemedicine Program

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WASHINGTON COUNTY One of our area's rural hospitals is announcing a new partnership to help doctors assess their patients' risk of having a stroke. The Northwest Florida Community Hospital has launched a telemedicine program with Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center here in Bay County.The program comes during stroke awareness month.

Northwest Florida community hospital is one of several smaller hospitals partnering with Gulf Coast Regional for stroke testing. A new telestroke machine allows neurologist from Gulf Coast to assess patients in Chipley.

"We have access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to their neurologist through our robot program, which gives us wonderful consulting mechanism," said Director of Emergency & Surgical Services Salem Avery.

Officials say the Gulf Coast Neurologist are as hands on as possible.

“When a patient comes and complains of any type of stroke symptoms we active a stroke alert,” said nurse Wendy Cail. “This can be wheeled into the patients room, usually right in front of the bed and the neurologist can talk with them. Interact with them."

Before this program, Chipley residents had to travel to determine if they were suffering a stroke. By then the damage could be catastrophic...even fatal.

"If they think it's a stroke they will usually take them to Dothan or Panama City,” said Cail. “So therefore its taking two extra hours out of the time frame that the patient needs to receive this medicine."

Now patients can be assessed and treated at Northwest Florida Community, unless they need more extensive care at Gulf Coast.

"Now they can stop here,” explained Avery. “Get assessed. Get their work up done. Start treatment, if we need to. Then go there."

Best of all, Gulf Coast's part of the assessment is free.

Below are some links to sites that can give you more insight on stroke awareness.