Signaling Telestroke’s Acceptance

October 24, 2013 by InTouch Health

It’s rare for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to jointly release a new policy statement, so what they said in August garnered a lot of attention.

The organizations unveiled a far-reaching statement entitled “Interactions Within Stroke Systems of Care.” The report examines what a “modern” stroke system should look like – and guides hospitals on how to align resources and develop models of care to improve stroke outcomes.

 This is a landmark document in the telestroke field for a number of reasons. The statement confirms that there’s been a steady seven figure-per-year increase in revenue for the typical outreach telemedicine network. And it also concludes that regionalized telemedicine dramatically improves access to patient care and can be fully self-supporting by creating an effective pathway for transfer of appropriate patients.

The policy statement, co-authored by Randall Higashida, MD and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, includes several key recommendations, including:

·         The need to establish protocols to optimize the transfer of stroke patients between hospitals offering different levels of care (or within different departments of a hospital). Telemedicine plays a pivotal role here by streamlining the triage/transfer process.

·         The need to expand telemedicine deployment, particularly in rural areas, to ensure that patients have 24/7 access to expert stroke consultation and care.

The statement also estimates that a “fully functional” stroke system of care that reduces stroke-related deaths by 2% to 3% annually would translate into 20,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. alone and 400,000 worldwide. And you can’t arrive at “fully functional” without a telestroke system solution.

In short, the AHA/ASA statement reveals that the healthcare establishment is very close to accepting telestroke as a standard of care. That’s great news for all of us in the telestroke field, and even better news for the global 400,000 whose lives it can save each year.