Mission Health's TeleStroke program treats 100th patient

TeleStroke robots help doctors make real-time diagnoses during critical moments
Jan 08, 2013

Mission Health's TeleStroke program recently conducted its 100th TeleStroke consultation. Alex Schneider, MD, a neurologist located in Asheville, NC, used “IC4U” – a TeleStroke robot located in Angel Medical Center in Franklin, NC – to successfully treat a stroke patient 70 miles away in Franklin during the crucial first moments of a stroke.

"Treating our 100th TeleStroke patient represents a momentous milestone for Mission Health and is evidence of the strides we are making in bringing timely, expert care to rural neighborhoods throughout western North Carolina," said Jonathan Bailey, MHA, Vice President of Operations for Mission Health. "TeleStroke technology has led to a huge improvement in the way we diagnose and treat our stroke patients.”

Two million brain cells are lost every minute during a stroke, which increases risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death. Stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. It is the fourth-leading cause of death in America and the number one cause of adult disability.

Mission Health’s TeleStroke program uses robotics and other technology to enable neurologists located in Asheville to treat stroke patients remotely in seven rural community hospitals throughout western North Carolina. The robots wheel themselves to a patient's bedside and display a video screen that allows the patients and physicians to talk in real time. The robot displays test images so the physicians and patients can review results simultaneously and collaborate with local staff on a recommended treatment plan.

"Because we are improving the time between onset of symptoms and treatment, TeleStroke patients are experiencing more favorable outcomes than ever before," said Alex Schneider, MD, Medical Director of the Mission Hospital Stroke Program. "By using the TeleStroke program, we are typically saving one hour of brain time for these patients, which ultimately improves their long-term prognoses."

Out of the program’s first 100 TeleStroke patients, 43 percent were treated with thrombolytics, which are drugs used to dissolve blood clots. These drugs are typically the first-line treatment for stroke patients and, when administered promptly after the onset of symptoms, can significantly reduce the effects of stroke and permanent disability. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association report that only 3 to 5 percent of those who suffer a stroke reach the hospital in time to be considered for treatment with thrombolytics.

The TeleStroke program was funded in part by a USDA - Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant awarded to Mission Health in December 2011. This grant, which was in excess of $400,000, was awarded for the purpose of improving access to healthcare and educational services in rural communities. In addition to funding the TeleStroke program, the USDA grant also funded Mission Health’s TelePsych program, which treats psychiatric patients remotely.