AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Dr. James Kiely Honored To Be Entrusted With Offering Guidance And Care

Dr. James M. Kiely characterizes his AcuteCare Telemedicine team as personable, professional, expert, engaged, and available.

“People feel they are buying hardware when they engage in telemedicine,” says the neurologist originally from Peoria, Ill., and raised in Naples, Fla. Dr. Kiely has been named one of America’s top doctors by U.S. News and World Report in recent years. “They think that (telemedicine) is just an app and they are gonna have this faceless, personless, characterless interaction. When you engage with AcuteCare Telemedicine you are engaging in a staffing solution,” Dr. Kiely adds. “You are gaining quality individuals to join your medical staff and your patients are going to be engaging with individuals with whom they can relate on a personal level who are invested in their care.”

Dr. Kiely’s own investment in medical care took flight after graduating with honors from the University of Florida. He still follows his beloved Gators. He received his M.D. from Emory University and Ph.D. from the Emory Department of Pharmacology. He completed his neurology residency at the University of Virginia and has been a partner of Atlanta Neurology since 2000.  In 2009, he became a founding member of AcuteCare Telemedcine.

It is the duality of the mind and brain that drew Dr. Kiely to neurology. “The idea that this was at once an organ and at the same time it is where we manifest ourselves,” the father of four says. “There is no disease that affects the brain without affecting who that person is,” he adds. “It affects their actual sense of self.”

AcuteCare Telemedicine was created, Dr. Kiely says, to guide and significantly impact the well-being of patients with a sudden catastrophic event who otherwise wouldn’t have swift access to vital expertise.

Dr. Kiely is pleased at telemedicine’s high level of patient and family acceptance. “To be able to come in and affect somebody in this way at the time of their most crucial need is undeniably a very personal experience for the patient and the physician,” he says. “Using technology you can still go to the bedside and look around the room. It really is a very personal encounter and I have yet to have a patient or family, when asked, say they’d rather not be treated this way.”

The doctor’s Irish Catholic descent drives him to go to work, do his job, and share his talent. He derives inspiration from patients and their caregivers. “Faced with life-changing, even life-ending circumstances they make difficult decisions and endure daily challenges I have never personally had to,” Dr. Kiely says. “It is an honor to be trusted with providing counsel and guidance.”

Examples of the life-saving impact of telemedicine come easily from Dr. Kiely. He tells of a call suggesting a patient was exhibiting stroke symptoms. The ER physician sought advice regarding treatment with tPA, the clotbusting stroke drug. But when Dr. Kiely went online, it turned out to be something else. “Once I ‘beamed in,’ spent time in the room with the patient and had a conversation with his wife, it became apparent that he needed an acute, urgent intervention for stopping seizure, not for treating a stroke,” he says. The patient was having subtle seizures that mimicked the appearance of a stroke.

Amid the technology that enables telemedicine, the concept revives a method of care from days gone by, when doctors actually made housecalls.

“Everything old is new again,” Dr. Kiely says. “It wasn’t until after World War II and an increase in specialists and hospitals, that patients were brought to the doctors. We’re still using doctors’ offices and hospitals as a setting for care, but it won’t be long before patients routinely see physicians in their offices and homes. You may keep a child home from school, and have the physician see the child there or at the school.”

When Dr. Kiely isn’t making long-distance housecalls, he enjoys exercising, movies and hanging out with family and his wife of 27 years. He misses having the time to relax with brewing and gardening.

Fishing is not among his off-hours hobbies, but is his analogy for his work at AcuteCare. He doesn’t need fishing, stating he gets enough hours of contemplation interspersed with minutes of intense action at work. “You are gonna go out there. You have no idea what your day may hold, but you know it’s gonna be worthwhile,” Dr. Kiely reflects, connecting hook and line, with his healthcare duties. “It’s gonna be exciting. You’re gonna make a difference. You’re gonna have some fun. There is nothing routine about it.”



Stroke Mimics in the Emergency Setting

The role of the neurologist in treatment of acute stroke often focuses on the decision to use clot busting medication (tissue plasminogen activator; tPA), recommending care setting (e.g. ICU vs routine admission) based on patient deficits and prognosis, and of course, patient education in the midst of this emotionally charged experience. However, an often overlooked mandate for the neurologist is the proper recognition of stroke itself. Dr. J. Stephen Huff, Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Virginia, provides a clear and comprehensive review of what are termed stroke “mimics” – disorders which may appear to be a stroke, but are not.

Stroke, broadly defined, is any prolonged disruption of focal neurologic function due to decreased blood flow from blood clotting in a specific region of brain. If that disruption is transient or intermittent it is typically referred to as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). If brain function is disrupted by a cause other than a blood clot, treatment with tPA may not only lack benefit but expose the patient to unnecessary harm. Recognition of “stroke syndromes” that result from specific artery involvement is the bread and butter of neurology. The abrupt onset of aphasia (language deficit) and right sided weakness almost certainly indicates a patient has blocked their left middle cerebral artery. Blocking this same artery on the right results in the classic presentation of left sided weakness and “neglect,” an inability to recognize one’s own physical deficits. In either case, the immediate administration of tPA can be life-saving.

Other disorders may cause brain dysfunction unrelated to a blood clot. This is the case in approximately 13-20% of patients presenting with presumed stroke. If the duration of symptoms is unclear, this number may even be as high as 30%. The most common mimic is seizure. Excessive electrical and chemical brain activity may result in focal weakness (Todd’s paralysis) and other deficits. If the seizure was not witnessed (especially in patients with previous stroke as the cause of seizures), excluding an acute stroke can be difficult. Focal neurologic injury from brain tumor, inflammation (e.g. multiple sclerosis), or even peripheral nerve palsy may be mistaken for stroke.

Stroke can be mimicked without direct injury to the brain. The most common mimic in this category is a complex migraine in which visual disturbance, weakness, numbness and even aphasia can occur. Hypoglycemia or, less often, hyperglycemia (low and high blood sugar) can cause general symptoms of lethargy or coma, but focal brain dysfunction (particularly weakness) often occurs and can outlast normalization of blood glucose. Finally, 30% of patients presenting with psychiatric causes of physical illness (i.e. conversion disorder) exhibit neurologic deficits, typically weakness.

Determining the cause of a patient’s deficits can sometimes be accomplished in an emergency setting through the use of CT imaging and appropriate diagnostic tests. Often the results of serial examinations, detailed history and, increasingly, advances in MR imaging can eventually lead to the correct diagnosis. However, certain diagnoses, notably migraine and conversion, are diagnoses of exclusion, so repeated events and extensive negative testing may be required for confirmation.

Among patients presenting with neurologic deficits, emergency department physicians correctly identify stroke before applying diagnostic studies in about 75% of cases. This means as many as 1 in 4 cases are incorrectly diagnosed. It is the role of stroke experts, like those of AcuteCare Telemedicine, to quickly and accurately determine the likely cause of neurologic deficits, the risks and benefits of multiple treatment options and convey a plan of action simply yet fully to the patient and loved ones. It is a difficult but rewarding task.