More than 150,000 Americans die of strokes every year. In addition to death, stroke has a severe impact on society. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that strokes cost society over $30 billion in costs and lost productivity. The worst part? A large number of people – about 1 in 4 stroke victims — have experienced more than one stroke. Unlike cancer and other health problems, a stroke can kill you or inflict disabilities in minutes.
As the population continues to age, the number of strokes is likely to increase. Since strokes cause so much damage, innovators have created a telestroke technology. After all, very few stroke victims experience a stroke event in a hospital. When strokes occur, diagnosing the problem quickly is vital in order to safe the patient.
In the past, stroke victims had to travel to a specialist to get help with a stroke. That’s a problem because every minute and hour counts when you experience a stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic:
To be effective, intravenously delivered clot-dissolving therapies must be given within four and a half hours after you experience stroke symptoms. Procedures to dissolve clots may be considered within 24 hours of stroke symptoms, but these require transferring from the originating to the distant site.
Treatment delays increase the likelihood that a patient will suffer a stroke-related disability such as paralysis or worse. Stroke telemedicine means that patients can receive a rapid diagnosis with a qualified specialist even if they are located far away from the patient. This medical innovation requires much more than a simple phone call or Internet connection. Instead, you need the capacity to gather specialized medical data quickly and interact with a patient.
For telestroke remote health care to succeed, a set of hardware technologies need to act together. Each hospital will take its own approach, but the underlying hardware will be the same in most cases.
Data Management For Remote Health Care. When you deliver remote health care, a large volume of sensitive medical data will be produced. To handle this data, you need to assemble a data management system, including USD connection, wireless connection and power management.
With the exception of CT scanners, these hardware components are getting smaller and cheaper every year. Further, most consumers are getting more comfortable using smartphones. That’s an important reason why remote health care for stroke patients is going mobile.
Saving a few minutes from the stroke telemedicine process is critical. Every minute that ticks by can result in lost brain function. Fortunately, there are new remote health care developments.
The Mayo Clinic has developed a way to add telestroke technology directly into an ambulance. This development means fewer people will suffer from death and disability. Reducing delay is critical because experts estimate that millions of brain cells can be lost per minute during a stroke event. By using ambulance telestroke technology, the treatment process is up to seven minutes faster.
So far, we have looked at remote health care for strokes in health care contexts. What about the thousands of people who suffer strokes at home, work and other places? The next step is to offer telestroke technology via everyday consumer technology like the smartphone. Early research on this type
In 2012, researchers published a study exploring the use of video smartphones for acute stroke patients. In the study, the researchers looked at using the FaceTime video conferencing capability on the iPhone. At that time, the cost of producing a traditional telestroke site was more than $46,000 per year. In contrast, iPhones can be purchased for less than $1,000. Bottom line: “Our study results demonstrate that the iPhone 4 is a very reliable tool for stroke telemedicine.” Since more than 80% of physicians use smartphones, this approach to remote health care is significant. There are limitations to the study, such as video quality and training. Despite these limitations, this study shows promising results.
Right now, remote health care is most useful for diagnostic activities. We have also seen the rise of healthcare robots who can provide more direct assistance, like picking people up. For robots to perform that level of support, they will need a variety of sensors to avoid hurting people. Whether we look at robots, drones or other types of remote health care, there are two forces that will propel the expansion of remote healthcare technology.
First, the current economic model of delivering health care to an aging population is unsustainable. The Health System Tracker found that people over the age of 55 accounted for half of U.S. health spending in 2016. As the Baby Boomer population continues to retire, overall health care spending will grow. Second, consumer demand for convenience is increasing across the board. Asking people to sit for hours in a clinic waiting room to be seen for a quick check-up is not going to be tolerated. By gathering basic health data remotely, doctors can help stroke patients in their treatments.