On May 31, 2006, the matriarch of a small, rural Colorado community suffered a stroke. Her life was saved due to an innovative new program, CO-DOC, the Collaborative Digital Online Consultant Telemedicine Program. Launched that day and activated for the very first time, physicians at her local hospital connected with a neurologist in Denver via an internet-based, HIPPA compliant telemedicine system, consulting in real time and saving her life.
A partnership between Colorado Neurological Institute (CNI), Blue Sky Neurosciences, HealthONE Stroke Care and Swedish Medical Center, CO-DOC provides 24/7 acute, stroke neurology coverage to residents in communities that lack an onsite stroke specialist. CO-DOC allows neurologists based in Denver to communicate remotely with any hospital in Colorado, providing real-time, interactive stroke consultations within rural and/or remote hospitals.
Since its beginnings, CO-DOC has conducted more than 1,300 consults, enabling 76 percent of patients to stay in their own communities to receive proper medical treatment. Prior to CO-DOCs launch, few patients treated in rural hospitals for stroke received the lifesaving, clot-busting drug, IV-tPA. Instead, patients were transported to urban areas and when minutes count, lost valuable time in receiving proper treatment. Additionally, health care costs associated with unnecessary transfers can often times be insurmountable.
Originally funded by the tobacco tax, CO-DOC received its first grant from the Caring for Colorado Foundation (CFC) in 2007 to support the network of 9 hospital sites. In 2008, CFC awarded a three-year grant in the amount of $124,600 to help add two rural hospitals to the network and support CO-DOC’s costs associated with the two new sites.
Today, CO-DOC’s network has grown to include 24 partner sites encompassing all parts of Colorado, from the western slope to the eastern plains, south to Pagosa Springs and Trinidad and north to Cheyenne.
Along with this expansion, comes an increased need for technology. CFC awarded CO-DOC a third grant in 2011 to connect existing technology at nine sites to new software enabling the program to better serve its partners as well as provide invaluable IT support.
“CFC’s latest grant made us smarter,” explained Megan McDonald, program manager of CO-DOC. “We learned what it will take from a technology standpoint as we move forward and continue to expand the program. We interacted more with our existing partners, improving those relationships.”
A little more than five years after its first life-saving case, CO-DOC saved the life of Brad Cochennet, the CEO of Pagosa Springs Medical Center, which is comprised of a Rural Health Clinic and Wellness Center, EMS, Surgery Department, and an eleven-bed Critical Access Hospital in Pagosa Springs, CO. In August 2011, representatives from CO-DOC had visited Brad’s hospital to demonstrate the program. Little did Brad know that a mere two weeks later his own life would be saved by this same technology at a hospital in Vail after he suffered a stroke. The Pagosa Springs Medical Center has embraced the stroke telemedicine technology since 2011 and will be expanding its stroke program, as well as, adding a pilot cardiac telemedicine program over the next three years.
“Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the nation and the number four killer,” explained McDonald. “It can strike anyone, anywhere at anytime. It is our goal to have 100 percent of eligible Colorado patients treated with the life saving drug, IV-tPA.”