The new telemedicine concept means patients can now be diagnosed and given the support and care they need without having to travel to hospitals or surgeries for face-to-face consultations. Fighting ever-reducing budgets, many NHS trusts struggle to provide patients with the care and support they need 24 hours a day. This is especially significant for stroke sufferers. Stroke is the third largest cause of death in England and is the single largest cause of adult disability. Nationally, stroke costs the NHS and the economy £7 billion a year.
We’ve worked with NHS North West Trust in Cumbria and Lancashire to pioneer telemedicine technology to tackle this head on. A Telestroke Network has been created which allows 18 specialist doctors to treat stroke patients remotely using HD technology and streaming video. An out-of-hours stroke thrombolysis service is now available for the first time to nearly 2.2 million people in the area.
Stroke patient, Howard Thomas, remembers his experience of the Telestroke Network in Lancaster Hospital: “I went into A&E and they gave me a scan and put me in a cubicle which was where the Telestoke Television was. The specialist wasn’t in the hospital – the Telestroke cart connected me with her in her house. She spoke to the team and advised them what to do –they gave me the injection. A clot-buster.
“In less than 24 hours since having the stroke, I was able to recognise my wife and daughter and her husband, I even spoke to them,” he continues. “I was able to walk within a day or two. 3-4 days after the stroke I was in the ward. I was kept in coronary section as I had a super-fast heartbeat, just so they could keep an eye on me. The treatment I had and the speed at which it was given helped me to recover. There’s no two ways about that.”
“Thrombolysis treatment can only be given to patients within 4.5 hours of the onset of their stroke so time is core to this treatment and Telestroke will help improve the speed of patient diagnosis,” said Dr Paul Davies, Consultant Stroke Physician, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and Lead Stroke Clinician for the Telestroke Network. “In an acute stroke, time is of the essence and the sooner treatment can be provided, the better.”
An incredibly high bandwidth is required to support this digital video conferencing service which is why the NHS North West Trust turned to us to supply their high-speed fibre optic network.
Since its launch in 2011, the Telestroke Network has had an immense impact on treatment. Between 27th July 2011 and 11th February 2012 there have been 483 stroke patients overall, of which 48 were thrombolysed. 26 patients were thrombolysed out-of-hours whilst 22 patients were thrombolysed in-hours. A huge £18 million could be saved over a decade if this trend were to continue. This is just another example of how technology not only changes lives, but also saves them.