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TeleStroke Center

Partners Telestroke Program Highlighted in FCCs National Broadband Plan

The FCC's national Broadband Plan lays out a bold roadmap to America's future. The initiatives documented in the plan are intended to stimulate economic growth, spur job creation, and boost US capabilities in education, healthcare, homeland security and more. The Plan contains a 25-page chapter on health care, which calls upon the Department of Health and Human Services to make e-care projects a "top priority". One suggestion is the creation of a health care broadband infrastructure fund to make sure all health care facilities — including rural ones — have adequate connectivity.

The health care portion of the Broadband Plan (Section 10) can be found at http://www.broadband.gov/plan/10-healthcare/ )

The Plan promotes the deployment of broadband to support, among other things, better access to care through video consultations and store-and-forward technologies. It specifically highlights a stroke patient "Beverly" who was a 49-year-old stroke victim from a Massachusetts town about 75 miles outside of Boston. After she arrived at her local hospital, staff set up a video link to Massachusetts General Hospital, where an MGH stroke specialist observed her and conducted a neurological exam while receiving vital signs, radiology scans, and lab data. With the guidance of the MGH stroke neurologist, she received a lifesaving drug at the community hospital that allowed her to make a complete and full recovery from her stroke.

The Broadband Plan states that 'in addition to increasing access to otherwise unavailable care, video consultations combined with store-and-forward technologies could lead to significant cost savings from not having to transport patients'.

Prior to the Partners Telestroke intervention, many of these patients might not have received life-saving treatments in time (resulting in poor clinical outcomes and higher costs), or they might have been transferred to a tertiary center despite not being eligible for advanced therapies (resulting in higher costs). In 2009 alone, the Partners Telestroke Program delivered a total volume of 500 consultations (250 video consultations and another 250 telephone-only consultations) to 26 hospitals in the region. An estimated 270 patients (55%) were provided life-saving treatments in the community hospital setting and remained there because they were stable enough to remain or were expected to gain no benefit from more advanced therapies offered at a tertiary center. The remaining 230 patients (45%) were treated in the community and appropriately transferred to a tertiary center for more advanced care. These transferred patients may have received advanced neurosurgical or interventional neuroradiology procedures and/or high-acuity inpatient observation that would typically result in improved outcomes, reduced disability, shorter rehabilitation hospital stays, and a better long-term prognosis.

The FCC's national Broadband Plan also cites remote patient "home" monitoring technologies (many which are being developed, piloted and implemented by the Partners Center for Connected Health, MGH, BWH, and Partners Home Care) as 'a tool which can enable early detection of health problems, usually before the onset of noticeable symptoms. Earlier detection allows earlier treatment and, therefore, better outcomes'.