20 June 2016

Country stroke patients benefit from telehealth

A new telehealth service is playing a key role in improving outcomes for stroke survivors throughout country WA.

Telestroke is providing access to timely, evidence-based stroke specialist advice and care for regional stroke patients, improving their recovery time and quality of life.

Using telehealth within the stroke patient care journey has been demonstrated as an effective model of care for regional areas internationally.

The WA Telestroke Project intent is to make this possible for the WA country population.

The current state-wide reform for stroke care in Western Australia is led by the WA Department of Health WA Stroke Services Project (WASSP). Funding for the telehealth component is sourced from the Southern Inland Health Initiative (SIHI).

A key component of the statewide reform is the development of defined acute rural stroke pathways, linking regional areas with tertiary hospital metropolitan acute stroke unit sites.

WACHS Telestroke Project Lead Steph Waters said this created virtual country-metropolitan stroke teams, linked by telehealth. 

“These pathways are supported by funding for additional sessional stroke neurology consultant expertise at aligned metropolitan tertiary hospital acute stroke units provided through the WASSP.

Steph said that the development and consolidation of partnerships between regional health staff and metro-based stroke neurology consultants and multi-disciplinary teams could significantly improve a patient’s outcome.

“This improves access to specialist advice and care, coordination of care across country-metro pathways, and improved after stroke care.”

The first service to use telehealth to develop a "virtual" multidisciplinary country-metro stroke team was Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital and its partner WACHS regions.

Developments are currently underway to replicate this service at Osborne Park Hospital Stroke Rehabilitation Unit and St John of God Midland Stroke Unit. 

Development of an acute telestroke consultation trialling the use of mobile wireless telecart technology between Bunbury Hospital emergency department and stroke specialists at Fiona Stanley Hospital has also commenced.