In the case of a stroke, timing is everything – for every minute that a patient goes untreated, millions of brain cells are dying.
Unfortunately, however, there are many barriers to timely stroke treatment, including delays in patients’ arriving at the hospital and a lack of stroke neurologists. Luckily, stroke telemedicine, known as telestroke, can bring a stroke specialist to the patient’s bedside with a flip of a switch.
Through the use of videoconferencing, stroke specialists are able to examine the stroke patient and consult with the Emergency Department about the best treatment option. The use of telestroke has proven to significantly increase the percentage of patients who receive the clot-busting drug tPA (alteplase), greatly improving the chances of a full recovery. If a patient is given tPA within 90 minutes of having a stroke, they are three times more likely to have favorable outcomes.
Unfortunately, telestroke is not available at every hospital. According to current federal law, Medicare will only cover a telestroke consultation if the patient is located at a rural hospital. With approximately 94 percent of strokes occurring in urban or suburban areas, many Medicare patients don’t have access to this valuable resource.
The FAST Act
However, there is a solution to this problem: the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act. The FAST Act is a bill in Congress that would require Medicare to pay for for telestroke consultations regardless of where the patient lives. This bill would not only provide patients with the urgent care they need after experiencing a stroke, but it would also save money by reducing disability and therefore lessening the need for long-term rehabilitation in hospitals and nursing homes.
On March 1, 25 You’re the Cure advocates and over 160 neurologists from across the country are coming to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass the FAST Act. Join us in our call to Congress by sending an email to your legislators today asking them to co-sponsor the FAST Act.
Every stroke patient deserves access to timely, quality care. We have the technology to help stroke patients, and we should be using it. We need you to speak up today for increased access to telestroke.