At a Glance
- Saves lives
- Reduces stroke-related disabilities
- Shrinks recurrence rates
In China, a National Effort to Diagnose and Treat Stroke Patients
A villager in a suburban county of China suddenly loses her ability to speak, and she can't raise her left arm. As each moment passes after the onset of her stroke symptoms, she grows increasingly more likely to suffer permanent neurological damage, assuming she survives at all.
Only a swift diagnosis and timely treatment at the hands of a specially trained neurologist can save her from the risk of a lifetime of disability and recurring stroke. But her village is hours away from the closest Level III trauma hospital – too far to receive the specialist care she needs.
To change this grim reality and improve the outcomes for stroke victims in China – where despite recent urbanization, medical care resources like Level III hospitals are still concentrated in large cities – medical professionals throughout the country have teamed together to bring advanced stroke care to people where and when they need it most.
It turns out the miracle drug stroke victims have been waiting for doesn’t come in a pill or a syringe: it's a face-to-face video and audio connection linking patients at remote medical facilities with a network of stroke specialists trained and administered by China’s new National Telestroke Center.
When patients with acute stroke symptoms arrive at remote medical facilities participating in the telestroke program, local staff can immediately connect live with neurologists at Xuanwu Hospital, the National Telestroke Center’s base hospital in Beijing. High-definition video and content sharing allows experts to guide local personnel through initial assessments and to identify which patients are candidates for clot-busting medications. Neurologists at Xuanwu Hospital or other Level III trauma centers interact with field staff from video-equipped conference rooms or offices, or even from their homes using mobile phones or tablets. Officials say this kind of anytime, anywhere access to experts makes the difference, because when treating acute stroke, every second counts.
But China’s effort doesn’t stop at enabling timely diagnose. The National Telestroke Center is training hundreds of local providers so neurologists in Beijing can remotely guide field personnel through complex reparative surgeries that can often make the difference in stroke outcomes. Without the help from experts in high level hospitals, conducting intricate operations will be difficult for local staff in less advanced hospitals. Experts later collaborate with local staff on follow-up therapy and care.
The remote video technology will also be used in education for medical schools, professional trainings to staff in lower level hospitals and promoting stroke awareness to public. In fact, center officials predict that by defying distance with Polycom solutions, the reach of China’s national telestroke network will someday eclipse those found in North America and Europe.
And for stroke victims in China, that future can’t come soon enough.