Barbara and Richard loved retired life! They had successfully raised four children in New Mexico. Barbara raised violets, hiked regularly, and loved Shakespeare. When Barbara and Richard decided to go to a Shakespeare festival in Utah, they didn’t realize that the lack of access to a stroke neurologist would cost Barbara her life. Because Barbara had a stroke in a rural area and the community hospital did not have a stroke neurologist on call nor access to tPA (a special blood thinner), Barbara’s stroke was so damaging she did not recover. But she may have been able to do so, if she had had access to a telestroke program.
Many retirees are like Barbara and Richard. They travel, enjoy the outdoors, and, if healthy, do not consider the risks associated with a lack of specialty care in rural areas. Yet, stroke symptoms require IMMEDIATE assessment and intervention. If diagnosed as an ischemic stroke (90% of strokes are ischemic) , timely administration of tPA is required for someone to recover from a stroke. Because stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States, the sooner a stroke is diagnosed and treated, the less likely disability will occur.
Telemedicine programs make stroke neurologist specialists available to people, regardless of their geography. Whether an urban health system offers a hub and spoke model or rural entities contract with an organization like Specialists on Call, telestroke, a type of telemedicine, increases the likelihood that someone will fully recover from a stroke. If you want to see telestroke in action, view an example here.
If you are a retiree who is at risk for stroke, determine in advance where your access to specialty care may be on your travels. If you are a rural hospital, consider adding telestroke to your offerings. If you are an urban hospital administrator, consider offering a hub for the rural or community hospitals that need access to stroke neurologists.
Remember, “time is brain” and every minute makes a difference for someone having a stroke.