Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for roughly 130,000 deaths each year. Every minute counts following a stroke because every minute that passes puts stroke patients at a higher risk of suffering long-term or even permanent effects.
For rural hospitals or hospitals without a neurologist on staff, evaluating, diagnosing and treating stroke patients quickly and effectively is difficult. Only 22% of rural Americans live within 30 minutes of a neurologist-staffed medical facility, leaving a large portion of the country’s population without appropriate access to stroke care when they need it.
To combat this challenge, many health systems across the country are implementing telestroke programs. Through these programs, physicians at rural hospitals can immediately consult and coordinate with remote neurologists during the initial triage within the emergency department (ED), all the way through the treatment and follow-up.
How telestroke programs improve patient outcomes
Telestroke programs have been proven to have positive effects on patient outcomes. Southern Illinois Healthcare, a not-for-profit system, implemented a telestroke program to minimize the door-to-needle time in its rural emergency departments. Through its program, Southern Illinois Healthcare was able to:
- Reduce door-to-needle time to 19 minutes
- Reduce the average length of stay for stroke patients to 2.5 days
- Have one neurologist serve three remote hospitals
You can read more about Southern Illinois Healthcare’s telestroke program here.
Another study of 2,500 patients diagnosed with an acute ischemic stroke found that telestroke increased the timely use of clot-dissolving drugs by 75%. The study also found:
- Diagnostic imaging tests were given 12 minutes sooner
- Clot-dissolving drugs were administered 11 minutes sooner
- tPA administration increased by 55% in rural areas
Building an effective telestroke program
While it’s proven that telestroke programs enable greater collaboration between providers and better access and care for patients, certain telehealth functionalities are essential for the seamless evaluation and treatment of patients.
Remote Physician Control of the Camera: American Well’s telemedicine carts come with a Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera to enhance video quality and control during remote consults. Remote far-end-camera-control on PTZ cameras allow neurologists to control the camera while examining the patient remotely.
Care Collaboration through Multiway Video: Giving physicians the option to add care team members, additional specialists or family members to a remote consult allows for better continuity of care and facilitates the right care for the stroke patient.
Real-Time PACs Imaging: When evaluating and treating a stroke patient, physicians need rapid access to superior imaging, preferably all within the same platform to avoid multiple screens and log‑ins.
Integrated EMR History: Because stroke care must be administered quickly, it’s essential that physicians have patients’ records at their fingertips. Integrating the telestroke program with the EMR allows physicians to quickly view patient information before making medical decisions—creating a safe and comprehensive patient-provider experience.
These functionalities enable neurologists to provide care that is equivalent to in-person stroke care. To learn more about telestroke programs, or to request a demo of American Well’s telestroke technology, click here.