Martha's Vineyard Hospital is using a telemedicine program offered by two Harvard University teaching hospitals to remotely diagnose stroke patients, a move that has helped speed treatment and save money, the New York Times reports.
Because of a lack of specialists to determine whether the patient was even having a stroke, the hospital had not been administering tPA to its approximately 25 stroke patients each year. tPA is the only drug that has been shown to work for stroke.
Bleeding in the brain occurs in 6% of cases in which tPA is prescribed and can be fatal, so physicians must be sure the drug would be beneficial.
Martha's Vineyard Hospital -- which is the only hospital on the small island off Massachusetts -- could not afford the $500,000 it would cost to keep the specialists on staff.
The hospital began using TeleStroke, which connects physicians at Martha's Vineyard Hospital to specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The program, which costs $10,000 annually and uses videoconferencing and image-sharing technology to relay symptoms and CT scans to diagnose strokes (Kolata, New York Times, 5/28).