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UK News

FaceTime calls between doctors and paramedics improves life-saving stroke care

today07/10/2021

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FaceTime video calls between senior doctors and paramedics at the scene of emergencies has resulted in stroke patients gaining quicker access to life-saving treatment.

The “video triage” system was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic out of necessity and has proven to be a success – speeding up care and ensuring patients are allocated to the right treatment centres.

Medics at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) came up with the idea of using Apple iPads to triage stroke patients at the scene of a 999 call-out with the London Ambulance Service (LAS).

Paramedic Patrick Hunter uses an iPad to talk with consultant neurologist and stroke physician Dr Rob Simister
Image: Paramedic Patrick Hunter uses an iPad to talk with consultant neurologist and stroke physician Dr Rob Simister

Paramedics use an iPad to FaceTime a consultant or registrar after arriving at the scene of a suspected stroke.

They then decide whether the patient needs emergency stroke care, assessment at a mini-stroke clinic, or potentially an emergency department for other critical illnesses.

The effective new system “brings the specialist into the patient’s front room”, according to experts.

Doctors say the new technique for assessing patients has meant they “consistently” end up in the right place the first time and are treated more quickly as a result.

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Short delays to the treatment of strokes, which are a medical emergency and occur when blood flow to part of the brain is cut off, can be deadly or leave patients with life-changing disabilities.

UCLH and LAS will continue to use the new system to provide patients with the best quality stroke care and hope that similar programmes will be rolled out across the NHS.

Dr Rob Simister and paramedic Patrick Hunter at the National Hospital For Neurology And Neurosurgery in London
Image: Dr Rob Simister and paramedic Patrick Hunter at the National Hospital For Neurology And Neurosurgery in London

Patrick Hunter, senior clinical lead paramedic at LAS in North Central London, told the PA news agency: “The innovation on the technology side isn’t that new – we’ve been using FaceTime to contact our grannies during the pandemic.

“The real innovation is connecting the ambulance service with the specialists in a way that’s never been done before.

“And it creates this ultra-early triage where we bring specialists into the patient’s front room, which is reassuring for them and also ensures they get the absolute right treatment and don’t go to a hospital unnecessarily.”

The new system has also reduced the number of patients with other conditions being sent to the hyper-acute stroke unit at UCLH by half, data suggests. This has ultimately freed up more time to deal with major stroke victims in need of life-saving care.

Mr Hunter said the technology could also be used for other conditions and other services, such as if a paramedic needed to speak to a GP or social care teams.

The system is already being used to connect paramedics with specialist children’s doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital so medics can assess the rare condition of strokes in children.

Dr Rob Simister, consultant neurologist and clinical lead for UCLH’s hyper-acute stroke unit at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, said the system has made the care that all patients have received “much, much faster and much, much more efficient”.

He added: “So stroke patients have got to hospital quicker and been given quicker access to time-critical treatments, and patients with non-stroke have got to a specialist service more relevant to their condition much faster as well.

“And we think if you get access to time-critical treatments as fast as possible, the likelihood is you have a better outcome.”

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News


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