In hospitals, telecommunication typically occurs via a control station or in a room with connected computers. But part of telestroke’s (and telemedicine’s) appeal is that physicians can conduct these visits from almost anywhere with a computer and an Internet connection. Still, someone needs to know how to incorporate appropriate encryption and security measures to keep patient data safe. Hence the need for technology expertise.
With computers secured, physicians and administration signed on, a plan in place, and IT personnel at the ready, telestroke can save lives. At MGH, Schwamm gets daily transcripts of the consults the program conducts. “It used to be that maybe once a month I would get an e-mail that we treated with tPA. Now I get several a week,” he says. “We’re like a tPA factory.” In fact, 40% of contacts between MGH and spoke hospitals resulted in tPA being administered.
As long as telemedicine reimbursement continues to improve, hospitals involved with telestroke see it as the future, as a solution to a neurologist shortage that will worsen as practicing doctors retire. “Get out in front now or try to catch up later,” Schwamm says. “It’s the right thing to do for
Michele Wilson is a freelance writer for HealthLeaders Media.