The new mobile stroke unit is one of only 20, worldwide, with a new portable head CT scanner. Mercy Health has it in a specially-outfitted ambulance with a team trained to work remotely with doctors.
Dr. Eugene Lin, a neuroendovascular surgeon, demonstrated how he can remotely diagnose a patient and have 40-60 CT scan images sent to a radiologist for review. The team can then determine the next course of action, which could include medication and the next facility for ideal patient care, possibly with a comprehensive stroke unit.
Because stroke care is so time sensitive, the Mercy system has chosen to base their mobile unit at the St. Charles location in Oregon. It has the most central location in Northwest Ohio, within a 15-minute drive for rural patients.
Lin described situations where the mobile unit had paramedics contact him with video phone technology and he diagnosed the situation, sitting in his car, at a restaurant parking lot. then the mobile stroke unit met the paramedics at a halfway point to administer emergency care.
“Time is brain with a stroke patient,” Lin said. “We need to get the patient medication to dissolve a clot. We have to make sure we have that information as soon as possible. So having 4G available, having mobile hot spots with enough bandwidth for video streaming and to transmit the images to the cloud so we can view in real time… that’s how I’m able to do everything from one location.”
When Lin started in 2008 a treatment speed of 60 minutes was a goal. Now the unit has treated patients in as little as 11 minutes.
Although this isn’t from Minnesota, it hits home for me. My dad had a stroke a year ago. He was driving and somehow managed to drive himself to the hospital. (And is now fine.) BUT we live in St Paul. Using US Hospital Finder, I can tell you here are 12 hospitals within 5 miles of my house; beyond qualified physicians, at least two have specialized stroke centers.
Everyone should have such access to healthcare – and thanks to telemedicine innovations we’re getting closer to equitable access, despite the shortage of doctors and aging rural population the article mentions. The article outlines some of the financial and policy efforts in play to help expand telehealth more quickly…
In July 2019, the FCC proposed to establish a three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program that would support bringing telehealth services directly to low-income patients and veterans. The program would provide an 85% discount on connectivity from broadband-enabled telehealth services that connect patients directly to their doctors. The FCC is still collecting public comment on this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
“Increasing access to reliable and affordable broadband will allow us to better capture all of its benefits and ensure more people have access to the care and services they need,” Latta said.
Along with the commission’s actions, Latta introduced a bill – the Broadband DATA Act – that has passed the House, to fix the national broadband maps. The Broadband DATA Act would improve broadband map accuracy so that federal resources can be distributed to communities that currently do not currently have the digital capabilities, specifically in rural areas, needed to keep pace with the rest of the country. It would get internet connectivity to areas for things like telehealth, homework or streaming a favorite television show.