North East telemedicine project expands for stroke patients

The North East Ambulance Service alongside the Integrated Stroke Delivery Network in the region are expanding their telemedicine project, where ambulance clinicians video call the stroke units directly.

The organisations have been working together to improve emergency stroke care by implementing audio visual calls from the ambulance.

The technology in place will allow clinicians from the ambulance to video call the stroke unit, to allow the patient to be assessed face-to-face through video before they enter the hospital. As the stroke specialist reviews the call about the patient, they will decide whether to admit the patient straight to the stroke unit or else where.

The project is set to expand in August to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, Darlington Memorial Hospital, University Hospital of North Durham, and Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. From this, it will be evaluated by Newcastle University for enrolment outside of the region.

Dr Graham McClelland, a research fellow at NEAS and funded by the Stroke Association exploring telemedicine for prehospital stroke care, is assisting the project: “We do know that rapid identification, rapid transport to specialist stroke care and pre-alerting the hospital about the stroke patient are the best things NEAS clinicians can do for stroke patients.

“Because stroke is such a time critical condition, we hope to demonstrate that video triage improves communications between NEAS and the stroke services and therefore informs better decisions about the right destination and care for each patient.

“Getting the stroke team involved with the patient before they even get through the front door of the hospital should also reduce the time it takes for the patient to be seen when they arrive at hospital. Even if it’s only a five minute reduction in time, this could make all the difference to a patient’s outcome.”

Dr Louise Southern, Consultant Stroke Physician at the RVI and QEH, is the lead clinician for this project within the hospital trusts. She added: “Our joint Newcastle/Gateshead stroke service has delivered real benefits to stroke patients in terms of faster treatment, and therefore reduced long-term disability.

“We hope that this project will build on that success, by allowing RVI stroke clinicians to see patients with suspected stroke when they are still in the ambulance or the emergency department at QE hospital. Pilot projects elsewhere have suggested that this can lead to better decisions about triaging patients to the right place for them.”