Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Research highlights benefit of telemedicine for stroke treatment

Paramedics could use FaceTime to improve their assessment of stroke symptoms and help quickly and accurately identify stroke patients, according to new research presented at the UK Stroke Forum.

The use of such technology could ensure stroke patients access life-saving treatments as soon as possible, it suggests.

The findings, from a study in Kent, show that connecting paramedics at the site of an emergency to a stroke specialist can improve the accuracy of stroke diagnosis and referral of patients to the right specialist units to receive treatment.

Timely treatment is crucial to achieving the best possible outcomes for stroke patients.

According to data from the Stroke Association, almost one in three (29%) people who had a stroke since March, when the first lockdown began, delayed seeking medical attention for their symptoms.

Fear of contracting COVID-19 or burdening the NHS could be reasons people put off calling 999 for stroke.

However, the new study, which included 496 patients, shows that audio-visual technologies, such as FaceTime, can be used to diagnose stroke while also reducing face-to-face contact and avoiding unnecessary journeys to hospitals.

In further findings from the study:

  • Around one in five stroke patients might go undiagnosed with the tests currently used by paramedics
  • A majority (86%) of stroke specialists felt that the audio-visual technology guided their recommendation for patient treatment
  • The majority (nine out of ten) of stroke specialists, who were connected to paramedics at the scene, found the new Telemedicine system easy to use.

“We’re incredibly excited to present these findings, which could transform the way paramedics treat acute stroke patients in an emergency,” said Dr David Hargroves, consultant physician, East Kent Hospitals University Trust and Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) national clinical lead for stroke, who was involved in the study.

“This is especially important during the pandemic where public health measures to reduce face-to-face contact between people means we may need to rely more on virtual assessments.

“When someone is having a stroke, time is critical. The quicker they get specialist assessment, the quicker we may intervene and possibly more of their brain may be saved. Effective treatment for stroke involves a co-ordinated response between paramedics and stroke-specific hospital clinicians. The National Clinical Guidance recommends that telemedicine be more widely used, which is backed up by our preliminary findings, and we hope to see more if it’s use in the future.”

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