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Telemedicine Providing Critical Access

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FLORENCE, Ore. — Peace Harbor Hospital in Florence was recently ranked one of the top 100 critical access hospitals in the country, out of more than 1,700 rural hospitals.

One of the reasons for the high ranking is telemedicine, which proved to be lifesaving for Carlton Schaffer, who suffered a stroke.

Schaffer’s wife, Arlene, said the stroke happened in an instant.

“I just remember we were having a conversation and all at once he changed,” said Arlene Schaffer. “I saw almost immediately the droop in the mouth,” she said.

She called 911. Paramedics rushed Carlton to the ER at Peace Harbor Hospital.

“I don’t remember the trip here,” Carlton said.

Dr. Matt Danigelis was on the floor that day–March 17, 2011.

“I remember that he came in very early, which is very important,” Dr. Danigelis said.

Vitals were taken and a CAT scan confirmed a blood clot. Time was ticking.

What Carlton needed was a specialist immediately, and with the click of a remote he was connected to a doctor at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield.

On the monitor was neurosurgeon Dr. Elaine Skalabrin. With telemedicine, Dr. Skalabrin examined Carlton as if she were in the room. The technology provides face-to-face interaction, and the camera also allows doctors to zoom in and out.

“What I saw is that he was having a very big stroke,” Dr. Skalabrin said.

Peace Harbor Hospital started using telemedicine four years ago. It currently has three units–mobile carts cost about $15,000 each.

As a result of the telemedicne, Carlton received TPA, a clot-busting medicine that reduces a stroke patient’s risk of disability.

“We are qualified to evaluate for strokes, but it’s the neurology team that is going to be taking these people, and we like to have them on board and to make sure we are not missing anything, too,” Dr. Danigelis said.

Dr. Danigelis says early stroke detection is key and a second opinion using telemedicine also played a factor.

For Carlton who watched it play out on the screen, he simply counts his blessings every day. He is walking and talking.

“If it wasn’t for Arlene, I probably wouldn’t be here,” Carlton said.

Every day is a treasure.

In addition to using telemedicine for stroke patients, Peace Harbor also uses it for psychological evaluations and interpretive services.

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