The Washington State Department of Health Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program, Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center (NRTRC), and members of the Northwest Regional Stroke Network (NWRSN) collaborated to address stroke care in the Northwest region over recent years.
Specifically, the Northwest region of the United States has a higher rate of death due to stroke compared to the national average. With some of the nation’s most rugged geography, harshest climates, large proportions of rural communities, and an increasing shortage of stroke specialists, the region is poised to take advantage of the growing broadband capabilities and expanding telehealth networks.
Members voiced a need to address the significant rural-urban disparities seen in stroke treatment and care, suggesting a regional telestroke network as a potential solution. With a reach of over 200 members and organizations, the “Regional Telestroke Initiative” was developed to respond to stakeholder requests for assistance in the development and support of telestroke networks across the region.
This concept is supported by recent literature, such as the policy summary from the American Heart Association, stating that with the growth of telestroke programs both nationally and abroad, there is a need to extend telestroke use beyond the urban “hubs” to the rural/community hospitals that lack readily available stroke care. In the January 2009 Joint Commission statement, “informed consultations” include bedside consultation OR telemedicine consultation from a privileged physician. Clearly, telestroke is emerging as a standard of care in the treatment of stroke related illness.