AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


AcuteCare Telemedicine Advancing Stroke Care

A little more than a decade ago, telestroke and teleneurology were words that where not even part of our language but today are synonymous with the delivery of life-saving treatments for stroke. In a time when medical specialist are in short supply  among the nations smaller to mid-sized hospitals and increasing financial pressures make maintaining a neurology service difficult even at larger hospitals, many are turning to telestroke programs to assure their patients have access to the finest quality care available.  “Attracting and recruiting medical specialists is an ongoing challenge for smaller, regional hospitals who must balance the needs of their patients with the financial realities of healthcare in this demanding economy,” says Dr. Matthews Gwynn, Director and Founder of the Stroke Center of Northside Hospital in Atlanta and AcuteCare Telemedicine CEO. The combination of improving patient care, a growing shortage of neurology specialist and concerns over rising healthcare cost have converged to produce a significant increase in the utilization of communication technologies in the delivery of advanced stroke care

In a recent study, telestroke units helped increase the number of rural stroke patients treated and delivered treatment faster. In the 10-year evaluation of telestroke programs the study, published in the journal Stroke, found that the number of patients receiving the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for ischemic stroke rose from 2.6 percent to 15.5 percent and the median time between a patient’s arrival at a regional hospital until tPA was administered fell from 80 minutes to 40 minutes. In addition, the median time between onset of stroke symptoms and receiving tPA fell from 150 minutes to 120 minutes. During the same decade, the number of patients transferred from regional hospitals to stroke centers declined from 11.5 percent to 7 percent.

Telemedicine continues to make significant progress in providing quality, specialized care for stroke and other neurological ailments and is improving access to this care for patients who live in remote outlying areas not served by major urban medical centers. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.

According to a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers, telestroke programs are leading to lower cost. Stroke patients living in rural areas who receive care via a telestroke network experience, on average, nearly $1,500 in lower costs over their lifetime compared to stroke patients who do not receive telestroke care. The savings are primarily attributed to reduced resource utilization, including nursing home care and inpatient rehabilitation. The researchers evaluated a particular kind of telestroke care, with the healthcare provider acting as a hub that connects with a network of multiple hospitals, or spokes. They determined that when a telestroke system connects a hub with seven spokes it’s effective and cost-friendly for the patient. “This study shows that a hub-and-spoke telestroke network is not only cost-effective from the societal perspective, but it’s cost-saving,” said neurologist Bart Demaerschalk, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Telestroke Program, and lead investigator of the study.

Thomas Hospital has been serving the communities of Baldwin County and Mobile Alabama for more than 50 years. A 150 bed hospital with a staff of more than 1300 dedicated medical professionals, Thomas Hospital has established a tradition for earning accolades for excellent service. Recently, in an effort to complement their existing neurological care department, the Hospital partnered with AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) and the Alabama Partnership for Telemedicine to provide virtual, 24 hour, seven days per week treatment for stroke and other neurological maladies. With its exemplary track record for providing outstanding care it is no surprise that it would seek to improve its neurological care services through the use of the latest communication technology. Dr. James M. Kiely, says “When you engage with AcuteCare Telemedicine you are engaging in more than a technical solution. You are gaining quality individuals to augment your medical staff.  Patients are able to engage with neurologists who are invested in their care.”

ACT has established itself as an innovator on the forefront of the industry, taking a unique approach to telemedicine by leveraging new technologies and techniques to enable personal neurology consultation when doctor and patient are in different locations. “The interaction between patients and families and us with the two-way, secure videoconferencing system that we have, it’s the same as being there,” says Dr. Keith A. Sanders, AcuteCare COO. “The Neurologic exam for stroke and emergency Neurology can be as safely and reliably done remotely as it is in person, I don’t think we miss anything by not being there.” With the help of ACT’s powerful and personalized services, patients throughout the ‘Stroke Belt’ states of the Southeast have drastically improved access to the care they deserve, and medical facilities increase efficiency while reducing the costs associated with maintaining a traditional emergency neurology staff. Whereas many hospitals with existing neurology departments simply do not have the resources to maintain around-the-clock clinician capacity, ACT has managed to successfully disrupt the trend and bring patient and physician together, regardless of geographical boundaries. Achieving this goal requires a certain level of investment in technology and trust in the people behind it. ACT is truly technology-agnostic.  This agility affords healthcare organizations with the ability to select the platform that meets budgetary and organizational parameters.

At Dodge County Hospital ACT partners with InTouch Health (InTouch), a leading developer and provider of remote presence devices and software, to bring remote telestroke care to its client hospitals. InTouch and ACT closely collaborate with their hospitals to easily integrate and improve the efficiency of the new remote service workflow processes as well as improve clinical performance and cost containment.  The client hospitals dedicated staff of medical professionals receive important, on-site training in the operation of the telecommunication robots and its software and form critical consultative relationships with ACT neurologist to ensure the highest quality patient care. “Having the ability to consult with a neurologist remotely for treatment of stroke and other neurological maladies is allowing these hospitals to meet the needs of the patients in the communities they serve,” says Dr. Gwynn. “We look forward to expanding our family of client partnerships throughout the region.

Hospitals all across America are finding the cost of telemedicine an affordable solution to ensuring improved accessibility of critical care and specialized treatment for their patients no matter where they live. Dr. Lisa Johnson, AcuteCare CFO, sees the healthcare environment for telemedicine as an increasingly expanding area. “Unfortunately there is an exodus of neurologists away from hospital work and on call duty. There is a particular lack of neurologists in many rural hospitals,” as the trend continues, the need for telemedicine is only going to grow, especially in the field of Neurology, where assessing an acute stroke patient can be swiftly and completely performed via remote presence.”

If your hospital or hospital system is looking to establish a stroke center to offer the best in telestroke care, AcuteCare Telemedicine, as a practice-based provider, is the best solution. For more information, please contact ACT at info@acutecaretelemedicine.com.


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