Stroke is a major disability in the United States that affects more than 795,000 people each year. Outcome after stroke is strongly influenced by the ability to receive care over time, such as intravenous anti-clots, a clot removal device, and post-stroke rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, there are barriers that influence access to stroke care, especially when someone is in a location far from a large medical center. This can cause delays throughout their continuum of care.
Virtual stroke care using video conferencing technology can bridge the gap before patients arrive at the hospital through to post-acute settings, allowing stroke expertise to be brought to the patient instead of relying on patients who visit stroke specialists.
Virtual stroke care before hospitalization
For many stroke patients, their first encounter with stroke care is in the ambulance. After a 911 call, trained paramedics perform an initial assessment using stroke screening tools, initiate basic treatment, transport patients to local hospitals for further assessment, and sometimes can. bypass local hospitals for larger certified stroke centers.
The trip may take a few minutes or several hours depending on the distance between the patient and their local hospital. Knowing that stroke patients can lose approximately 1.9 million brain cells per minute, time to treatment is critical. Some sites across the country are working with their local EMS teams to provide video conferencing capability between ambulance and hospital, allowing them to get a head start on patient assessment before they reach the hospital. ‘establishment.
A major breakthrough is the development of mobile stroke treatment units – highly specialized ambulances that look fairly typical from the outside but contain advanced diagnostic and treatment capabilities that make them small wards. emergency on wheels. With a high-speed connection, stroke specialists can remotely assess patients and deliver advanced stroke care right to their doorstep.
Mobile stroke units have been shown to significantly reduce treatment time, increase the chances of receiving acute stroke treatment, and help patients achieve better outcomes. Mobile AVC units are not available in all cities; However, due to both the efficiency of these specialized ambulances and the needs of the community, mobile stroke units are growing in the United States and around the world. With virtual care in the prehospital setting, patients are brought to the right hospital the first time.
Virtual stroke care during a hospital stay
Once stroke patients present to an emergency room or are admitted to a hospital, they can virtually interact with a stroke specialist at different stages of their hospital stay. Telestroke is becoming an increasingly popular solution to optimize stroke care for patients, regardless of their geographic location.
In a traditional setting, a neurologist would interact with an emergency department doctor over the phone or go to the hospital to personally assess the patient. Telestroke allows stroke specialists to assess patients directly within almost minutes of a call and use the technology to review images, lab results and other relevant information.
Emergency room teams and telestroke specialists work closely together to determine eligibility for acute stroke treatment and to safely triage patients. Telestroke can also help prevent unnecessary hospital transfers and keep more patients in their community, unless a transfer is required for advanced stroke care.
Some hospitals have “connected hospital units”. These specialized hospital units have video conferencing and advanced neurological monitoring equipment integrated into each room. This allows providers to virtually assess and provide updates to patients and families.
Virtual visits after hospitalization for stroke
Many stroke patients develop physical or cognitive deficits after a stroke. As patients undergo stroke rehabilitation to regain their physical and cognitive functions, their ability to travel may be affected by the mobility issues associated with their stroke. This can cause patients to miss important outpatient appointments with specialists to ensure they receive appropriate follow-up care, answer questions, and potentially avoid hospitalization.
Although virtual tours have been used for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated use and comfort for both caregivers and patients. This not only allows patients to receive timely ambulatory stroke follow-up care without having to travel, but also allows patients located far away to connect with specialists in need of expensive travel and accommodation. in the hotel. Virtual visits have become a preferred option for stroke patients and specialists due to their ease of use, efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Just as technological advancements in video conferencing technology have allowed people to connect both personally and for work, these same advancements have opened up a great opportunity for medical care, especially for urgent emergencies such as accidents. cerebrovascular. The application of these technologies will continue to drive improved care, enabling better patient outcomes in many places.