Patients who have had a suspected stroke can now be assessed by a specialist consultant in the comfort of their own home following the launch of a first-of-its-kind pilot which is using technology to improve care.
The pioneering initiative allows specially-trained paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) to use a secure video conferencing app to liaise with an expert stroke consultant from Ipswich Hospital in cases where a diagnosis is not clear.
The consultant can then see the patient, ask them and their family questions about their history and symptoms and discuss the case with the paramedic before deciding whether they need to come to hospital or can receive more appropriate care elsewhere, such as their GP surgery.
If the consultant does feel the patient has had a stroke, they can arrange for the ambulance crew to bypass the Emergency Department and head straight to the specialist stroke unit at hospital. It means patients can have specialist tests and scans immediately and treatment can begin sooner.
Daimon Wheddon, area clinical lead with EEAST, said: “Stroke is the second biggest cause of death worldwide and affects around one in every six people in the UK. When it is clear that the patient has had a stroke, ambulance staff will get them to hospital as quickly as possible so that they can get access to the right treatment to help minimise any long-term damage or disability.
“However, our crews often attend calls where the diagnosis is not as certain. The patient may have had a mini stroke, or may be suffering with a condition which mimics stroke symptoms, such as a migraine which can cause blurred vision and speech impairment.
This important pilot will allow our crews to gain expert advice from hospital consultants in any cases where there is a doubt so that they can decide on the best treatment for that individual, in turn improving both their outcome and experience of receiving care.”
The pilot project has been funded with a £5,000 bursary from the Eastern Academic Health Science Network. It launched on 1 October and will run during office hours for around three months or until it reaches 50 patients, after which its feasibility and effectiveness will be evaluated.
It uses software which is already well-established in the eastern region, and has been used to support the out of hours stroke telemedicine service for the past eight years.
Dr Rahman Chowdhury, stroke consultant at Ipswich Hospital, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on this important project, which uses technology to improve care by taking the stroke clinic into a patient’s living room.
“It will make sure that every patient receives the right treatment in the right setting to meet their needs, while ensuring that only those people who really need hospital care are brought onto our wards.”
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