CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Each year, more than 140,000 people die of strokes and Lowcountry doctors say they are making sure local patients don’t contribute to that number.

Every second after suffering a stroke is crucial; doctors say patients can lose roughly two million nerve and brain cells a minute, increasing the need for faster care through EMS and telehealth services.

Doctors say strokes can happen to anyone. They say what happens next can make a huge difference.

“The treatments for stroke are very time dependent,” says Dr. Christine Holmstedt, Director, Comprehensive Stroke Program for the Medical University of South Carolina.

Doctors say some stroke patients are driving themselves to hospitals rather than calling an ambulance. MUSC says some rural patients have a more than 15 minute ambulance ride, both increasing the time to treatment.

“That can present a delay for properly caring for these folks and a stroke is a time dependent emergency,” says Dr. David French and Emergency Physician at Trident Medical Center. “The faster we can evaluate patients, the faster we may be able to treat them.”

Last year alone of the roughly 1,400 stroke patients Trident Medical Center treated, 43% were walk-ins. MUSC says patients living in rural areas also suffer but they’re hoping a new telehealth service connecting patients to doctors on the ride to the hospital can save vital time.

“I’m actually seeing the patient in the back of the ambulance with a camera, we have microphones, the EMS people can hear me,” says Dr. Holmstedt

MUSC’s telehealth service is seen as a way to connect rural patients to better care. Dr. Holmstedt says the $2,000 equipment is well worth it in the end.

“A fifteen-minute reduction in door to treatment time actually results in patients being two times more likely to be back to normal,” says Dr. Holmstedt.

At Trident Medical Center, Dr. French says the importance of taking a ride in the back of an ambulance ensures for the best outcome.

“Instead of the potential delay in recognizing this person could be having a stroke, the more notice that we get, the faster we can start the process to potentially reverse their condition,” says Dr. French.

MUSC officials say 100% of all South Carolinians live within 30 minutes of a stroke doctor. MUSC officials say it’s something they hope can be cut down even further with the telehealth program along with other programs. Trident Medical Center says if you believe you could be suffering a stroke, you should always dial 9-1-1.