Stroke Care Extends Its Reach Via Video

Stroke patients in small communities can access stroke expertise through video conferencing

(RxWiki News) Less populated areas may not have access to stroke specialists in person. Stroke patients, however, can now get lifesaving expertise—long distance—through video conferencing.

Through a “telestroke” network, a neurologist can be “in the room” with a stroke patient, family and physician via a two-way video system.

A new study demonstrated how the telemedicine program in Oregon has expanded coverage of stroke care by at least 26 percent in the state.

"Get care within 60 minutes of having stroke symptoms."

Brendan Carr, MD, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, Surgery, & Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, served as senior author on this research, which evaluated all hospitals in Oregon.

Previous research by Dr. Carr and colleagues found only 54.5 percent of Oregon residents could reach a stroke center by ground within 60 minutes.

The new study shows by employing telemedical systems in concert with in-person care, nearly 80 percent of residents had access to expert stroke care within one hour

Dr. Carr and colleagues reported that 20 percent still had no access to stroke care within an hour.

Access to stroke care within the hour is critical. When it comes to stroke, faster care means better outcomes.

Stroke patients have a much greater chance of survival and avoiding long-term brain damage if they go to the hospital and receive treatment within this first hour.

Many healthcare providers have dubbed the hour immediately following the start of stroke symptoms as the “golden hour.”

Providence Health & Services provides a telestroke network in Oregon, using two-way video cameras over a secure Internet connection.

Stroke neurologists in Portland are able to perform comprehensive evaluations for patients in smaller towns via teleconference.

“If we can share our expertise in real time to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatments, we can eliminate unneeded travel time to transfer patients between rural communities and Portland,” said Bonnie W. Smith, administrator of Providence Brain Institute in a press release.

Oregon may especially benefit from the telestroke network because the state has the fifth highest stroke death rate in the country, according to Providence Health & Services.

Dr. Carr told dailyRx News that there needs to be more investigation into the reimbursement side of tele-health solutions.  

“Rural America has low volumes of stroke patients and insurance companies can't be billed directly for tele-health services, so these smaller facilities are [often] unlikely to get a [telestroke] solution,” said Dr. Carr.  “We need some clever thinking about how to weave a web of coverage across the US.”

The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego, March 16-23, 2013.

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Review Date: 
March 20, 2013