A new telestroke program at Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC) (Savannah, Ga., U.S.A.) is providing stroke assistance in rural regions of Georgia. Utilizing real-time audio and video conferencing, neurologists at MUMC can assess a patient and communicate treatment plans with doctors in regions that do not have a neurologist available, says the hospital.
According to an MUMC spokesperson, the program anticipates performing about 100 acute patient consults a year with further growth in the future.
The telestroke service will be carried over the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth network (GPT private network- T1 Line), which was built specifically for the purpose of providing telemedicine services throughout the state of Georgia, according to a MUMC spokesperson. Each physician has a lap top and can take call from virtually anywhere.
According to MUMC, the program uses a secure web based stroke portal which utilizes real-time audio and video conferencing, called a Mediport Telemedicine Cart.
“The stroke platform is a purpose built portal that is web based. It can be accessed from any PC with internet connectivity,” says the MUMC spokesperson. “For the video portion we use video conferencing equipment from Cisco. Specifically for Memorial Hospital the equipment is a Cisco C20 codec integrated onto a Rubbermaid Medical Solutions cart.”
The telestroke platform was developed in collaboration with Second Opinion Telemedicine Solutions (Torrance, Calif., U.S.A.), a company providing telehealth products to hospitals.
“Access to telemedicine services is especially important in stroke because time lost is brain lost,” says Joel Greenberg, M.D., co-medical director of Memorial Stroke and one of the developers of the telestroke platform. “Patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS) require immediate attention and stroke expertise; services rarely offered in smaller community hospitals. Through the use of audio and video, telestroke essentially adds a neurologist to the rapid response teams of underserved regions, providing better stroke care for the local community.”
According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and the primary cause of adult disability. Approximately 795,000 strokes occur in the U.S. each year, resulting in medical and disability costs of almost $74 billion annually.
“Georgia is considered part of the “stroke belt,’” says a MUMC spokesperson. “[It is] one of 11 states that have an unusually high incidence of stroke.”