In early February, a man collapsed in his home, following a stroke. When paramedics arrived, they knew time was of the essence if the patient was going to recover with little – or no – deficits.

Luckily, Alberta had recently implemented a new protocol, making the province a national leader in stroke treatment, according to Dr. Michael Hill, a stroke neurologist at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

“Patients have benefitted from an organized system of stroke care that includes EMS and air ambulance services.”

For more than a year, STARS has been working with health care and transport partners across the province to create and implement a new endovascular therapy (EVT) protocol for stroke patients. The goal is to improve patient outcomes by quickly identifying a stroke and determining the best receiving hospital for the patient.

“When you are on a call like that you are aware that the clock is already ticking,” said John Griffiths, a STARS emergency communications specialist.

The idea behind the protocol is simple: get everyone on the same page by connecting them on one line.

“This protocol is a game-changer for stroke patients,” said Les Fisher, director of the STARS Emergency Link Centre.

When STARS is called to transport a stroke patient in Saskatchewan, the ELC coordinates the call in a similar way, looping in neurologists to determine the best transport option for the patient.

In the Alberta example, just 10 minutes after the paramedics called, STARS linked a dozen medical care and transport experts onto one line and the decision had been made: STARS would rendezvous with ground EMS at the rural hospital to transport the patient to the stroke centre in Edmonton.

Dr. Hill’s research on EVT was the starting point for this protocol and he says it is going well so far, especially from a communications perspective.

“We can now resolve these calls and make a decision in a matter of minutes,” he said.

In this case, the protocol worked seamlessly. The team on the call triaged the request quickly and got the patient to the most appropriate care centre using the fastest combination of ground and air ambulance resources.

This patient responded well to stroke treatments and was left with no physical deficits.

“Efficient management of an EVT response can mean the difference between a patient being paralyzed or unable to speak after a stroke and walking out of the hospital without any deficits,” said Fisher.

STARS is always working with our partners to improve our emergency medical transport system across all bases, especially for time-sensitive emergencies like strokes.