UAB completes 6,000th tele-stroke case

UAB eMedicine uses advanced monitoring technology that allows UAB physicians to monitor and help manage the treatment of stroke patients who are located at other hospitals.

Stream 6000 telestroke caseUAB eMedicine uses advanced monitoring technology that allows UAB physicians to monitor and help manage the treatment of a stroke patient who is located at another hospital.
Photography: Andrea Mabry
When someone has a stroke, the minutes that follow are crucial, and the sooner a patient is treated, the better the outcome. If a patient has a stroke in Birmingham, they may be treated at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital — a hospital with a 24/7 specialized stroke unit staffed with neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists and other health care professionals trained in stroke care. For patients who are in rural areas of Alabama, the situation may be different as many small community hospitals lack the necessary resources on hand every hour of every day to treat a stroke.

To help address this problem, UAB Medicine established its tele-stroke program in 2018 at Whitfield Regional Hospital. Now, five years later, UAB eMedicine has crossed an important threshold — the completion of its 6,000th tele-stroke case. Tele-stroke care is provided by UAB at 23 Alabama hospitals and freestanding emergency departments, with more than half of these centers located in rural areas. 

“Surpassing 6,000 tele-stroke cases shows the commitment made by our faculty, staff and partners to provide unmatched tele-stroke care to patients across the state of Alabama,” said Charlie Angel, director of Operations for UAB eMedicine.  

UAB eMedicine uses advanced monitoring technology that allows UAB physicians to monitor and help manage the treatment of patients who are located at other hospitals. These physicians can use the telemedicine technology to view diagnostic test results, including CT scans, and have real-time discussions with ED staff, patients or family members on the recommended course of treatment.

“The faster a patient receives the necessary treatment for a stroke, the better their chances are for recovery,” said Michael Lyerly, M.D., physician lead of the UAB eMedicine tele-stroke program. “Over the past few years, new treatment options have emerged for treating stroke. While not every patient needs these advanced procedures, the tele-stroke program allows for rapid identification of these patients to ensure they get rapidly transferred to centers that can offer these interventions.”

Prior to the tele-stroke program, stroke patients in rural areas would go to their closest emergency department and sometimes have to wait to be transferred. This would often put them out of the golden hour treatment window, which is the window when patients’ outcomes are likely to be better. Patients may also have been treated through a national commercial program with care provided by physicians who were not in Alabama and not familiar with resources or transfer networks within the state. The UAB tele-stroke program provides patients access to a neurologist in minutes who may be able to make recommendations that allow the patient to stay at their local hospital rather than being transferred to another facility outside of their community, which is beneficial for both the patient and their community hospital.

“In addition to tele-stroke care to patients, we also provide stoke care training to nurses and physicians at our partner sites,” Lyerly said. “Our overall goal is to foster a team approach with managing these complex patients and act as another member of the patient’s care team continuing to provide the highest quality of care for them as possible. We are thankful for our partners and look forward to continuing to provide high-quality stroke care in the years to come.”