A prompt diagnosis is critical if suitable stroke patients are to be given thrombolysis, which can produce amazing results with patients discharged in a few days with no after effects. The project uses unique computer technology, developed by the National Health Service (NHS) regional IT experts, to link A and E departments at any hospital with a specialist stroke consultant anywhere. The consultant uses a very high quality video and audio link to see and speak with the patient as well as to read the CT scans and so make the diagnoses.
The four hospitals talking part in the initial pilot scheme are Southend, Peterborough, Watford and Addenbrookes. Mid Essex Hospitals Trust will run a slightly different local project in parallel which will also enable them to offer 24/7 stroke thrombolysis.
Stroke consultant at Adenbrookes Hospital, Dr. Elizabeth Warburton, stated: "Stroke is caused through either a blockage or a bleed in the brain. Thrombolysis can produce great outcomes for patients where the cause is a blockage if treated quickly. But to be fully effective it is vital to get expert diagnoses immediately. We can treat one in three patients if diagnosed within two hours, while at three hours it is one in seven. This new system will enable us to treat more people more quickly. It means that the expert, experienced stroke physicians are available to all hospitals at all times. That also means faster referral for stroke patients needing other specialist care."
The pilot will run several weeks and aims to cover at least 30 decisions to give thrombolysis. In the early days of the pilot, already there have been six successful calls. If all works well the scheme will be rolled out across other hospitals in the region.
Providing 24/7 access to stroke thrombolysis is one of the key recommendations for improvements to acute care set out in "Towards the best, together", the clinical vision for the NHS in the east of England, now and for the next decade. It also supports NHS East of England's Improving Lives; Saving Lives pledge to "ensure fewer people suffer from, or die prematurely from, heart disease, stroke and cancer".
IOCOM, a software provider for enterprise-class video conferencing capabilities, provides stroke patients 24/7 access from any branch hospital to expert stroke physicians via the company's video conferencing technology for quick diagnosis and treatment.
"We're constantly looking for ways to use technology to improve our ability to serve patients, and it's quite rewarding when a programme has such a significant effect on their lives", stated Phil Lowe, Information Management and Technology Project Manager for the East of England SHA Stroke Pilot Project. "IOCOM's superior video conferencing platform and expertise make them an ideal partner in this project, which has already saved two lives in the first few weeks. As we work with IOCOM to roll it out across our network of hospitals, the impact across the entire area will be remarkable."
The pilot uses IOCOM software with a computer on wheels, known as a "COW", which houses a fixed video camera and audio link. The consultants use specially-equipped laptops that automatically launch the IOCOM video conferencing technology as well as enable them to securely read CT images without having to directly access the hospitals' systems.
"Working with NHS East of England on this critical project that has such a tangible result of saving lives is truly an honour", stated Michael Galich, CEO and co-founder of IOCOM. "We believe that our video conferencing and collaboration software is a game-changing technology, and there is no better example of its potential than what NHS is doing to offer stroke victims this wonderful service."
The National Health Service is the name commonly used to refer to the four publicly funded health care systems of the United Kingdom, collectively or individually. The NHS accounts for over two million employees in the United Kingdom, and it is the largest employer in Europe. Since its launch 60 years ago, the NHS has grown to become the world's largest publicly funded health service. It is also one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive.
NHS East of England is the local headquarters of the NHS and works with 40 local NHS organisations across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. NHS East of England is responsible for ensuring that the GBP 8,1 billion spent on health care in the region delivers the best services and value-for-money for over 5,6 million people.
IOCOM is a Chicago-based software provider that helps keep people connected through video, data and audio conferencing. Its solutions work with virtually any Internet-enabled device, including room systems, PCs, laptops and mobile devices. IOCOM's focus is on delivering the high performance necessary for smooth audio and video without the cost and complexity of bulkier, proprietary systems. Fortune 500 companies, government and education institutions, researchers, skilled workers, and general consumers currently rely on IOCOM's solutions.