Q&A with Melissa Malmberg, Urgent Care NP and Telestroke Program Coordinator

Melissa Malmberg, RN

What is the Telestroke Program?

The Telestroke Program was a project started in 2013 that will allow the Emergency Department physicians and nursing staff to connect with stroke neurologists using a video teleconference monitor for live consultations for our stroke patients.
This program was initiated in 2013 by Annette Soborowicz, Haley Stellmacher and myself.  Annette had recognized the importance of improved stroke care in our area while attending a conference.  As a team, we have sought to educate and hone the skills of our emergency department and EMS providers in order to ensure the best care possible for our stroke patients.  We have educated the public about stroke and the Telestroke Program at local health fairs.  We have also worked in collaboration with St. Mary’s and St. Luke’s hospitals in Duluth; both are primary stroke centers that will be involved with the Telestroke Program.  A team of dedicated stroke neurologists will be available to connect with MMC to provide expert neurological consultation via this live video connection.  We are planning to launch Telestroke in early March, 2016.

How will this program impact patient care?

An acute stroke is an emergency and must be treated promptly.  The Telestroke Program will allow us to provide the best, most efficient, and quickest care possible for our stroke patients.  This exciting program will facilitate our decision making process with regard to the most appropriate treatment needs for each individual patient.   Treatment decisions will be made with access to the expert knowledge provided by the involved stroke neurologists.  Telestroke may also allow us to keep and care for more of our stroke patients at Memorial Medical Center.

What questions and information should patients should consider asking during their visit?

The patient and family members will be in close communication with the physician, nurses and stroke neurologist during the patient’s visit.  Patients, if they are able, and/or designated family members are encouraged to ask questions regarding care and treatment options that may include medication or surgical intervention. It is important for all involved to be informed of the risks and benefits of each potential option in order to meet the care needs of our patients.

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about stroke?

I think that the largest misconception is that patients believe that they will be cared for sooner if they come in by private vehicle.  In the event of a stroke, immediate care is needed, and an ambulance should be called.  The EMS personnel arriving at the scene will be able to begin some of the important initial assessments.  EMS will also be able to initiate a stroke alert, ensuring that all involved departments are ready once the patient arrives at the hospital.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?

The largest contributor to stroke is high blood pressure.  The most important piece of advice that I would have is actually threefold:  obtain regular physicals to be aware of your risk factors for stroke, exercise and maintain a healthy diet.  Having an awareness of your health status will help you to make healthy choices and reduce your chances of having a stroke.

If folks wanted additional health information about signs and symptoms of a stroke, what are some available resources?

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association website is a fantastic website for individuals, stroke patients and family members to learn more about stroke and treatment options, as well as recent research.