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Saving lives with videoconferencing

We look at an IT project in Lancashire and Cumbria which could save stroke victims' lives, all thanks to videoconferencing.

CASE STUDY IT can enable incredible things. Really innovative IT can take a business from the doldrums to the top of the pile.

It can also help save lives. Over in Lancashire and Cumbria a new project is under way, which doesn't just have the potential to save the NHS more than 8 million, it could save 24 more stroke patients lives every year.

The power of videoconferencing

How is IT enabling this? It's simple: videoconferencing. A few years back videoconferencing was not the most user-friendly technology. Thanks to inadequate bandwidth and expensive high definition video, images did not contain the level of detail certain industries needed, especially in the health sector.

Now, that's all changed. With vastly superior broadband, in this case provided by Virgin Media Business, and a secure router placed in each consultant's home, doctors are now able to view a stroke victim's face in crystal clear detail.

Teleconferencing

By combining the visuals and the information over the shared platform, a decision can be made on whether to treat the patient with Thrombolysis, a "clot busting agent," or not. This treatment can only be given within four and a half hours of the onset of a stroke.

Giving doctors the ability to diagnose in super-fast time really can be the difference between life and death in certain cases. It all forms part of what the doctors are calling 'telestroke medicine.'

Compared to the comparatively sluggish system used before, it's a vast improvement.

"As the doctor and nurse are preparing the patient I can be looking at a CT headscan which was probably done only three or four minutes before," said Dr Nicholas Roberts, one of the 14 consultants using the technology.

"The new technology has allowed us to do this 24/7. Before we could only do it onsite."

In an area where more than 4,000 people suffer a stroke every year, this new technology is going to prove fairly radical. On top of the estimated lives saved, it is believed an additional 40 patients will recover with no symptoms or significant disabilities, whilst 30 less patients per year will require full-time care. And there have been some significant successes already.

"We had one patient who was about fifty-something and was healthy. She was decorating her house and developed left-sided weakness and was with a friend who realised she was having a stroke," Dr Roberts told IT Pro.

"She got her to hospital within 40 minutes, she had her head scan done within another 20 minutes and then we started the treatment probably about 75 minutes after the symptoms started. She would have been a bad stroke case, but she made a full recovery and walked home two days later. That was fantastic and I've seen that happen several times now. It is quite a remarkable treatment."

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