Cerebrovascular accident, or stroke, is a common cause of death or disability. Timely diagnosis and intervention are critical for improving survival rates and reducing the long-term effects of stroke. For patients with ischemic stroke, thrombolytic drugs and endovascular intervention are time-sensitive treatment options.
Patients living in rural areas often do not have access to rapid consultation with specialized neurologic teams for diagnosis and treatment of stroke. The use of telemedicine in the form of a telestroke consultation can improve timely diagnosis and treatment for rural patients exhibiting stroke symptoms.
A telestroke program was implemented in the upper Midwest. A team of 4 interventional neurologists provided telestroke consultation to a comprehensive stroke center and 5 other acute stroke–ready rural hospitals.
A tiered stroke alert algorithm and telestroke workflow chart were developed to help health care professionals at rural sites determine eligibility for telestroke consultation. A teleneurologist connected with the originating site, and the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale could be completed remotely with assistance from the originating site. Telestroke has increased the percentage of patients receiving thrombolytics in less than 60 minutes, and door-to-needle time has decreased.
Rural patients with stroke symptoms may experience a delay in care or stroke diagnosis due to distance to specialized neurologic services. Telestroke consultation is a successful method for timely diagnosis of stroke and recommendation for treatment.