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‘Next generation’ stroke care adopted in Northern Ireland



Clinicians can now asses their patients through a video consultation

A high-tech system which enables the emergency assessment of patients with suspected stroke has now become adopted by the whole of the UK after being approved for use in Northern Ireland.

The telehealth system developed by Hospital Services Limited (HSL) has been hailed as providing “next generation” support to clinicians and consultants in being able to carry out video consultations and diagnosis of patients by smartphone or tablet.

HSL’s technology is already in place in hospitals and many GP surgeries in the UK and Ireland, and has now been introduced into Northern Ireland, to bring additional resources to medics and enable vital interventions in time-critical treatments.

The adoption of the app-based system adds further to the huge and continuing rise in virtual means of communication in healthcare. 

The stroke-specific system is used in hospital A&E departments to help medics with the diagnosis and care of patients presenting with a suspected stroke. From a concept barely two years ago, it has become a medical grade working solution.

Following trials in Northern Ireland and positive feedback from consultants, the telehealth system has now been embedded within the infrastructure that runs all of the conferencing and collaboration technology for the country’s Health Service.

“We are extremely pleased that telehealth for stroke care has been accepted by consultants across Northern Ireland,” says Dominic Walsh, chief executive of HSL.

“We believe that our telehealth platform will transform the diagnosis of this condition as it will enable stroke consultants to support their clinical colleagues as soon as a patient presents at A&E, giving them the facilities they need to undertake a risk-free diagnosis of the extent and nature of the stroke and to provide timely, lifesaving interventions.

“We are privileged to be in a position to undertake such innovative and beneficial work for the magnificent people in our NHS.”

Consultant stroke physicians Dr Enda Kerr and Dr Michael McCormick were involved in the trials of the project.

“We are impressed by the simplicity and elegance of the solution that was presented to us by HSL,” they said in a statement.

“Being able to intervene, support our colleagues and conduct remote consultations with the patient from a tablet or phone has changed how we work and speeds up diagnosis and time critical treatments.

“Time is of the essence when treating someone who has had a stroke, so literally every minute counts.

“The telehealth platform has the potential to make a significant contribution to improved patient outcomes after stroke, especially during late evening and overnight periods.”

HSL’s solution advances the existing means of remote communication, which ran on external systems, had no integration and relied on dedicated devices and network services to work. In contrast, the new telehealth solution allows intervention from a tablet, smartphone or laptop.

“Our telehealth platform presents to the consultant through a simple to use app that includes the features and facilities they need to undertake the initial diagnosis of the patient. This assures security, a simple and easy to use workflow, and the ability to include the results in the electronic care record for the patient,” adds Sam McMaster, director of telehealth for HSL.