Telestroke Improves Rural Care

Telestroke enables rural hospitals as those with stroke experts

(RxWiki News) Telestroke has come a long way. It may even allow smaller rural hospitals without staff stroke experts to offer the same level of stroke care as larger medical centers with available stroke neurologists.

The study suggests that rural hospitals who offer the technology that remotely links them to larger medical centers through video and data feeds offer life-saving clot busting drugs to patients at similar rates.

"When possible, go to a certified medical center if you have stroke symptoms."

Dr. Thomas Jeerakathil, a neurologist at the University of Alberta Hospital, said that telestroke offers a method for bringing an expert out to a rural center to provide treatment that would not be available otherwise. He noted there do not appear to be any delays in treatment despite the need to set up video conferencing equipment and examine CT images and blood work.

During the study, neurologists observed the use of telestroke in 10 primary stroke centers throughout remote parts of Northern Alberta in Canada over a period of four years.

They found that tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), used to break up blood clots and reverse stroke damage if given within 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms, was administered to more than 500 individuals. Of those, 119 patients were treated with the aid of telestroke. The patients would have gone without treatment or faced delays as they were transferred to a larger hospital without the technology.

Dr. Jeerakathil said he found that effective telestroke treatment in remote areas contributed to a 50 percent decrease in emergency room transfers. He said some rural medical centers that utilized telestroke reported a transfer decrease as high as 92 percent.

In addition to providing better care to patients, Dr. Jeerakathil said early projections showed that telestroke resulted in more than $1 million in health care savings over the four-year period.

"Telestroke is severely underutilized in Canada," said Dr. Antoine Hakim, chief executive officer and scientific director of the Canadian Stroke Network. "An audit of stroke care in Canada showed that fewer than 1 percent of stroke patients received a telestroke consultation. This study undeniably proves that telestroke saves both lives and money."

The study, which has not yet been published, was recently presented at the Canadian Stroke Congress.

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Review Date: 
October 4, 2011