Competing Charleston hospitals team up to improve stroke care

Competing Charleston hospitals team up to improve stroke care
Published: Oct. 28, 2016 at 9:40 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2016 at 10:00 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Two competing Charleston hospitals are teaming up to better serve patients suffering from strokes.

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Roper St. Francis are collaborating in the recently launched Lowcountry Stroke Collaborative. The partnership will entail an "advanced stroke care team collaboration comprised of MUSC and Roper St. Francis experts, for the benefit of all patients in the local community."

"What we're doing is leveraging... the collective expertise and collective technology to both improve and expand stroke care, not only in our community, but across the region and across the state," Roper St. Francis CEO Matt Severance said.

Doctors said the collaboration is focused on putting patients first.

"When you sit down, and talk about what really matters, which do we deliver optimal stroke care for every patient in the Lowcountry," neurosurgeon Dr. Ray Turner said. "You have to take a look at your resources and pool them so every patient gets access to stroke care, regardless of where they're at."

"It's wonderful when hospitals collaborate instead of compete," Sue Borum, a Roper St. Francis patient, said. Borum suffered a stroke around 20 years ago and recently, was evaluated at Roper St. Francis for a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or ministroke.

"When you're in that situation, you're so scared, you want to see your doctor and don't wait," Borum said. "The wait makes things worse."

A neurologist was able to evaluate her condition remotely via "telestroke" technology, a focus of the new collaborative.
"It was like Skyping, and we were able to talk to each other," Borum said. "Even though some patients are not aware, that doctor is there and able to diagnose."
Hospital officials said the partnership is expected to lower costs and patient transfers, as well as reduce the critical time gap between evaluation and treatment.

"At Roper St. Francis, we like to say every moment matters, but when you're having a stroke, every minute matters," Dr. Erin Sparks, a neurologist, said. According to Sparks, 1.9 million neurons, or brain cells, are lost each minute when having a large stroke. Offering advanced care, like telemedicine, helps doctors evaluate and treat quickly, possibly saving the patient's speech or ability to walk or move their arm.

"Anybody in the community that is afraid of having a stroke, believe me, you'll get better treatment than you ever have," Borum said.

Hospital officials said there's plans to expand the partnership to include stroke research and prevention.  

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