Ill. hospital debuts mobile stroke unit
The mobile stroke unit is a custom-built ambulance outfitted with a physician clinic, which can provide mobile stroke diagnostics and treatment services
By Steve Schering
OAK PARK, Ill. — With help from a private grant, Rush University Medical Center and the village of Oak Park have teamed up to create a mobile stroke unit, which can be deployed anywhere within the village.
The mobile stroke unit is a custom-built ambulance outfitted with a Rush-owned physician clinic, which can provide mobile stroke diagnostics and treatment services.
Rush University officials say the ambulance will be outfitted with telemedicine technology, brain imaging technology and drug therapies that are critical to accurately diagnose and immediately begin treatment for a stroke. The unit would be dispatched directly to a potential stroke patient's location to begin treatment.
"Receiving the correct treatment for stroke quickly can mean the difference between life and death or disability, but in most cases, treatment must be provided to patients shortly after a stroke to be effective," said James Connors, medical director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Rush mobile stroke unit. "Presently, patients cannot be treated for their stroke until they get to an emergency department. The mobile stroke unit brings immediate stroke diagnosis and treatment to patients at their homes or wherever they're in need, which will improve their chances of a good recovery."
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, causing brain cells to stop receiving oxygen, Rush officials said.
Oak Park trustees unanimously approved the agreement under the village board's consent agenda on March 5.
"I'm very excited to see we've authorized the mobile stroke unit from Rush to provide services to the community," Trustee Simone Boutet said. "Stroke care is something that's a matter of seconds and not minutes. Getting those services out to the community is great for everybody."
Oak Park spokesman David Powers said the village will incur no costs for calling in the mobile stroke unit.
If called out to a scene, the mobile stroke unit can perform CT scans of patients upon arrival. Rush radiologists will receive and analyze those scans and can determine whether a patient has experienced a stroke and determine what kind of treatment is needed. Symptoms of a stroke include facial droop, arm weakness and speech difficulty.
Officials said the goal of the unit is to provide optimal treatment to stroke victims within the first "golden hour" after symptom onset, which is when treatment will do the most good.
"We've been trying to cut down the door-to-needle times, [which is] the time it takes a patient to be treated in the emergency room, as much as possible," Conners said.
The unit is based out of Rush Oak Park Hospital, 520 S. Maple Ave., and has been servicing the Broadview community since November. Rush officials said they are working to arrange mobile stroke unit care in more communities in the near future.
According to the agreement, the mobile stroke unit is available to respond to Oak Park-generated emergency calls that indicate a potential stroke, as determined by Oak Park, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. Unless terminated, the agreement shall be in effect for one year between the village and the hospital, with a launch date yet to be determined. Either party has the right to terminate the contract with 15 days notice.
If patient care is transferred to the mobile stroke unit, Rush would be responsible to bill and collect for services. If patient care is not transferred to the unit, Oak Park shall be responsible to bill and collect for all services provided by local EMS or other third party services.
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