Telemedicine to revolutionise stroke treatment

Stroke Foundation today welcomed the official launch of the new stroke telemedicine service in Tasmania, saying it would revolutionise access to emergency stroke treatment in the state.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan spoke at the launch at North West Regional Hospital. Ms McGowan thanked the Elphinstone Foundation for the donation of the telehealth equipment and applauded the Tasmanian Government for its ongoing commitment to providing better stroke treatment and care pathways.

“Tasmanians are among Australians at highest risk of stroke,” Ms McGowan said.

“This service will save lives and reduce disability by providing access 24/7 to time-critical stroke treatment.

“When a stroke strikes, it kills up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute, but fast access to emergency treatments may 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 they have limited access to best-practice treatment and care — most stroke specialists are based in metropolitan areas. The telemedicine service and treatment pathway will remove this geographical barrier.

The telemedicine link with the Victorian Stroke Telemedicine Service (VST) will boost the capacity of Tasmanian health services, ensuring access to stroke specialists and treatment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Tasmanian Stroke Telemedicine Service will speed up diagnosis and work with regional clinicians in determining the best treatment and care pathways for patients with stroke. This may include administering blood clot dissolving therapy locally or transferring patients to a comprehensive stroke centre in Melbourne for more specialist stroke treatment.

Stroke Foundation Victoria and Tasmania State Manager Eamonn O’Toole said patients would now have access to the latest in stroke treatment through the telemedicine service, but to maximise the benefit of this innovation, patients must reach hospital as quickly as possible after a stroke.

“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,” Mr O’Toole said.

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

The F.A.S.T. test is a simple way we can all learn and remember the signs of stroke:

Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

Arms: Can they lift both arms?

Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

Time is critical. If you see any of these signs call triple zero (000) straight away.

The new service builds on Tasmanian Government investment in Stroke Foundation to:

Establish a “Community of Practice” to improve stroke treatment and care across the state.

Provide StOP (Stroke Outreach Program) to ensure stroke survivors and their families are connected with the services and information they need to prevent secondary stroke and live well.

Expand F.A.S.T. community education to raise awareness of the most common signs of stroke.

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