Innovative use of videoconferencing helps save lives of stroke victims

Hospital sceneA new out-of-hours remote diagnosis service provides faster, more effective treatment for stroke patients at any time - day or night.

Videoconferencing isn’t new – it’s been around for years. But clever ways of using this technology by one hospital trust in the UK has the potential to help save the lives of stroke victims.

NHS Surrey has pioneered a high-definition (HD) video conferencing service, which allows stroke patients in hospital to be remotely diagnosed out-of-hours by consultants working from home.

In the past, a limited number of on-call specialists would have to travel between hospitals to assess patients. This could waste time when the best chance of recovery from a stroke is to be diagnosed and treated within four hours.

That's why NHS Surrey worked with BT, the Surrey Heart and Stroke Network and local IT specialists to see how technology could provide an answer.

The result is a service known as Telestroke which is provided over N3, the secure national broadband network that BT built and manages for the National Health Service.

Consultants connected

It was successfully trialled at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and uses two trolley-mounted video conferencing units at each of the region’s five acute hospitals: one in the accident and emergency department, and the other in the stroke unit to enable patient monitoring. These units are then connected to consultants at their home via a secure broadband connection.

Said Adrian Blight, lead consultant for stroke medicine at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, who was instrumental in developing the service: “I can review scans and test results online, see and converse with the patient over the high definition video link and speak face-to-face with the onsite medical team and worried family members – all without leaving my home office.

“Being able to thoroughly assess patients more rapidly and prescribe the right treatment saves lives and improves the chance of full recovery.”

During the first few months the Telestroke service has been used 50 times effectively allowing Adrian to be at his patient’s side even though he was at home 20 miles away.

Huw Owen, president of BT Health, said: “Information and communications services have the power to transform the way healthcare is delivered and perhaps there is no better example of this than in the pioneering work being undertaken by NHS Surrey and BT which is quite literally a life saver.

“BT has a long history of innovation in the NHS, and it is particularly pleasing to see an application such as Telestroke, which takes advantage of the N3 broadband network BT has put in place for the NHS, delivering real efficiencies and improving patient care.”