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Published Thursday 18 Jan 2018

A six-month telestroke service pilot headed by Wellington Regional Hospital neurologists has seen a dramatic increase in stroke intervention rates across the Central Region. The service is now being replicated across other parts of the country.

The pilot – the first of its kind in New Zealand – saw seven Wellington neurologists providing expert after-hours advice via video link to four regional hospitals – Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, Nelson and Wairau. It has since been extended to Whanganui and Masterton hospitals.

Telestroke boosts access to clot-busting treatment, called thrombylosis, which helps improve recovery for stroke patients. It uses videoconferencing technology to allow off-site experts to provide stroke thrombolysis decision support to less experienced frontline clinicians.

“Since the service was implemented, stroke thrombolysis treatment has risen across the Central Region from 8 percent to 16 percent – the highest regional intervention rate across New Zealand,” said stroke neurologist and pilot lead, Associate Professor Anna Ranta (pictured).

“While all district health boards offer the treatment, the telestroke service ensures all central region DHBs offer a consistent 24/7 service. This has been the first such collaboration of treating stroke patients together.

“Not only has it allowed us to develop strong working relationships with stroke doctors and nurses across the six hospitals involved, it’s also meant there’s no treatment delay for the patient. Patients are able to ask questions and are fully involved with the treatment decision.”

The pilot, which was funded by the Ministry of Health, has since been replicated in the Midland region, and there are plans for telestroke to be implemented across the South Island. A new funding model has also been developed for the service, which allows DHBs to subscribe and pay an annual fee based on their individual population catchment area.

“Telestroke has made a real difference in reducing inequity of access to round-the-clock, high-quality acute stroke care in New Zealand. The extension of the service across the country will make a big difference to the treatment and recovery of stroke patients.”

Media contact: Chas Te Runa – 027 230 9571