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Telestroke Considerations Go Beyond Technology

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, May 19, 2011

In creating and expanding telestroke centers, there is room for variety. Some hospitals and health systems opt for running them on shoestring budgets, or for initiating co-management plans with physician involvement as crucial, integral parts of building relationships among partner hospitals as with patients.

Still, there is concern about developing telestroke programs, especially in rural areas where such networks are badly needed even as some hospital officials struggle to launch them.

These issues came into sharp focus Wednesday at a Health Leaders Media Rounds panel at the Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. The program was titled, "Neurological Service Line Growth: Telestroke and Brain Tumor Innovations."

Through emerging pathways, hospitals are seeking to improve patient care in telestroke programs with technology as a key factor. But healthcare leaders expressed concern that while IT is good, vital partnerships and collaborations are essential for telestroke or other telehealth programs.

"I'm always looking at lowering the barrier to partnerships," says Alan Pitt, MD, attending physician in radiology and clinical informatics or the Barrow Neurological Institute. "When I look out at the table at a rural access provider, he's usually a relatively small shop and he probably doesn't have the deepest IT resources. And he's listening to you talking about partnership and the first thing he does when he hears telehealth – 'big clunky stuff that he's going to be responsible for.  He can't afford big clunky stuff that's going to sit in a closet. We've made this simple. If you have a laptop, you can participate. Telehealth is evolving very rapidly in the ability to partner. Ultimately, it's less about technology and more about the business relationships. If you can eliminate that technology barrier for them."                                                                                

Indeed, a telestroke network doesn't have to be overwhelmingly expensive and can be carried out on a "shoestring" budget, says Sarah Livesay, MS, RN, ACNP, manager of neuroscience Clinical Programs for St. Luke Hospital in Houston, TX.

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