For 18 months now, Melbourne neurologists have been assessing Albury-Wodonga Health stroke patients via a telemedicine link.
It means the 250 people who come through the stroke unit annually have access to the right treatment sooner, says unit co-ordinator Vanessa Crosby.
“The telemedicine link is in 16 sites around regional Victoria and we’re lucky enough to be one of those sites,” she said.
“From the emergency department, they can call through to Melbourne with a potential stroke patient, and they can advise to whether the patient should be transferred down to Melbourne.”
Ms Crosby said this connection was critical when it came to determining what treatment a stoke patient required.
“Patients can get clot-busting treatment here and can be sent to Melbourne if they need to get the clot removed,” she said.
“Clot retrieval is only done at the Royal Melbourne Hospital so we’re lucky to have that telemedicine link.
“Since that started we’ve sent about eight or nine people down to have the clots removed and some of them had amazing outcomes.
“It has certainly improved access.”
Ms Crosby has recently completed a reconfiguration of acute stroke care at Albury-Wodonga Health – patients are treated initially at the Borella Road hospital before moving to long-term rehabilitation at Wodonga.
“We’ve had stroke unit care before, but we haven’t had it all co-located – that’s something we’ve been working on for quite some time,” she said.
“The idea is to have it all within the same room and up-skill the nurses working there so we have an area of expertise.
“It’s better to do that, than have possibly three different teams of people treating fewer numbers.
“We can do some really good education by focusing on the one stroke team.”
Ms Crosby said it also resulted in better outcomes for patients.
“They come here for their acute phase and then to Wodonga for their rehab,” she said.
“There’s an advantage for these patients and their families in the fact they’re in the same room and can make connections with others going through the same thing.”