Telemedicine: A Stroke of Genius

MARCH 03, 2010
Sean Johnson
Consider this a call to action. Telemedicine needs more attention in neurology practices and hospitals. Take a minute and review the following statistics about stroke:
-          -There are 700,000 incidents of stroke in the United States every year
-          -When a patient is suffering a stroke, they lose approximately 32,000 brain cells a minute
-          -Stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults
-          -Stroke is the third leading cause of death

In short, stroke is a dangerous disease because it devastates the brain in a rapid way. With so many technological innovations in medicine over the last five to ten years, it’s time that the medical community respond by utilizing anything and everything that can improve patient outcomes for this disease.
Enter telemedicine. The technology has been around for some time now, and finally hospitals and varieties of specialty practices are beginning to incorporate it where appropriate. There may not be a more appropriate use of this technology than in an ER, specifically for stroke patients. Time is never on the side of a patient who is suffering a stroke; it doesn’t make sense to have a neurologist jump out of bed at 2:00 AM and drive like a mad man to the hospital while a patient’s brain continues to deteriorate. Instead, it makes more sense to quickly jump on a computer and access a Web-based and be able to oversee care immediately.
Unfortunately, many hospitals do not use telestroke technology, and the standard of care for stroke is drastically different from location to location. As David Hess, MD, Professor of Neurology and Chairman, Presidential Distinguished Chair, Department of Neurology, Medical College of Georgia, put it, “there’s a geographic penalty for care.” Of course, there are still barriers to care, and cost being one of them. But what always gets me is that the cost of this technology and the time it takes to set up a team of people who can use it (including neurologists, hospitalists, IT staff, etc) is really just a small commitment of time in money in the grand scheme of things. Not to mention that the savings it will generate in the long run for various caretakers involved. Some technologies should not be resisted, and this is one of them.

Do you have telestroke technology in your neurology practice/hospital? If not, do you plan to incorporate one?

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