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Mehari Gebreyohanns, M.D. Answers Questions On Telemedicine Stroke Treatment

Mehari Gebreyohanns, M.D. Answers Questions On: Telemedicine Stroke Treatment

Can telemedicine really be as effective as having a neurologist in the room for stroke treatment?

Definitely. A skilled neurologist makes his diagnosis and treatment plan through keen observation, careful listening, and a physical exam using simple tools – a reflex hammer, a pin, and a tuning fork. Telemedicine makes it possible for us to make these observations and perform these exams with the tap of our handheld tablets and some assistance from nurses or doctors at the patient’s bedside.

We can see patients – and also their brain images – in real time, and even if I’m 100-plus miles away, I can give the same level of care that I give to my patients here at UT Southwestern.

The data we’ve collected from our current partnerships shows that patients in our partner hospitals are getting IV tPA – which is the only approved acute medical treatment for stroke – at a rate that is comparable to or better than the overall national treatment rate. The national rate is about 5 percent, and the rate at one of our partner locations is close to 12 percent.

Does it take longer to get care because the neurologist is not on site?

Not at all. We have a commitment to respond to pages from our partners in less than five minutes and to see the patient face-to-face on camera in less than 15 minutes. Many times it happens a whole lot faster than that.

One of our hallmarks is that we’re very fast. And our partners are getting recognized for making the door-to-treatment time very short – everyone in our partnerships knows that time is brain. The quicker stroke patients get treatment, the better their outcomes will be.

So it’s almost like having a virtual stroke center?

That’s another advantage of this program. It’s a fact that patients who get stroke care at a designated stroke center have better outcomes than patients at hospitals without designated stroke units. Our telestroke program gives patients at our partner hospitals – which may not even have a neurologist on site – advanced stroke-center-caliber treatment.

In addition to our consults, we provide ongoing education to the physicians and nurses at these hospitals so that every aspect of the stroke patient’s care improves. And if a patient needs a higher level of care, we can easily transfer him here. That’s another big benefit.