Telehealth to revolutionise stroke treatment in New South Wales

Stroke Foundation today welcomed the launch of the New South Wales (NSW) Telestroke Service in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie hospitals, saying it will revolutionise emergency stroke treatment in the state.

The Service builds on a pilot utilising telehealth technology to deliver time-critical 24/7 access to specialist clinical advice for the management and early treatment of stroke patients at regional and rural hospitals.

Coffs Harbour Base Hospital and Port Macquarie Base Hospital were central to the successful pilot, making them the ideal locations for the launch of the state-wide service. Over the next three years, up to 23 rural and regional hospitals will be added to the service.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said telehealth was being relied on more than ever in this time of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the NSW Telestroke service demonstrated the technologies value extends well beyond the current pandemic. Stroke Foundation is proud to partner with NSW Health in supporting the service’s roll out. This includes delivering F.A.S.T. (Face. Arms. Speech and Time) signs of stroke community education in the state’s regions.

“NSW is home to Australia’s stroke hot spots, with those in regional areas at highest risk,” Ms McGowan said.

“This telestroke service is much needed. It will have an enormous impact by removing barriers to time-critical stroke treatment that saves lives and reduces lifelong disability.

“When a stroke strikes, it kills up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute, but FAST treatment can stop this damage.”

Regional Australians are 19 percent more likely to experience stroke than people in our cities. Regional Australians are also more likely to die or be left with a serious disability as a result of stroke because of limited access to best-practice treatment and care — most stroke specialists are located in metropolitan areas.

The telehealth service and treatment pathway will remove this geographical barrier.

The NSW Telestroke Service, coordinated by the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, will speed up diagnosis and support regional clinicians in deciding the best care for the patient which may include blood clot dissolving treatment or transfer for more specialist stroke care.

Stroke Foundation NSW State Manager Rhian Paton-Kelly said people living in regional and rural NSW will have access to the best in stroke treatment through the Telestroke Service, but to benefit patients must reach hospital.

“The first step in ensuring better outcomes from stroke is getting to hospital quickly, and that means recognising the F.A.S.T. (Face. Arms. Speech. Time) signs and calling triple zero (000) straight away,” she said.

“I urge everyone to learn the F.A.S.T. message and share it with your friends, family and colleagues.”

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