A passerby helps a woman with stroke.

New Standards Published for Telestroke Programs

For the first time, official guidelines have been published for the use of telemedicine in potential stroke cases. The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) recently released a joint scientific statement describing quality measures and outcomes for telestroke. The document was prepared in response to the rapid growth of telestroke over the past decade. Now, hospitals can quantitatively measure their telestroke programs against these standards in order to ensure they are providing high quality care.

The new AHA/ASA document explains standards such as:

  • Process measures including time to consultation and time to treatment
  • Outcomes including mortality, hemorrhage rates, clinical status, and patient satisfaction
  • Information on where patients should be transferred and why
  • Quality of telemedicine communication

The statement, published online in the November 3, 2016 edition of Stroke, is endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology and the American Telemedicine Association.

Telestroke is among the older, more established branches of telemedicine, driven largely by a shortage of neurologists and stroke programs. Even now, an estimated 75% of U.S. counties lack a hospital capable of treating stroke.

Earlier this year, Kaiser Permanente published a study demonstrating the importance of ready access to a neurologist and an hospital equipped to treat stroke patients. The researchers noted that after a teleconsultation with a specialist, there was an increase of nearly 75% in timely use of the clot-dissolving drug tPA after using telemedicine to consult with a specialist, and patients received diagnostic imaging tests and tPA more quickly after onset of symptoms. Since stroke treatment is heavily time-sensitive, any improvements in time to consultation and time to treat can significantly improve a patient’s prognosis.

When the shortage of neurologists is combined with the urgency of treating stroke appropriately, the result is a market that has been forced to seek other avenues such as telestroke.

In some areas, health systems have equipped ambulances with telemedicine technology, CT scanners, and tPA, giving emergency medical technicians (EMTs) the ability to consult with a neurologist, send a CT scan, and administer medication—all before reaching the hospital.

SwyMed welcomes the guidelines and encourages stroke programs to work with area EMTs to add teleconsultation services to the ambulances; even if tPA cannot be administered en route to the hospital, such communication can help the hospital staff prepare for the new arrival and reduce the overall timeframe prior to giving tPA.

To read more on the AHA/ASA statement, click here.

To learn more about swyMed and why we’re already working with EMTs, click here.

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