After a year in operation, New York Presbyterian’s (NYP) Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) continues to be a shining example of how healthcare technology can be used to facilitate true patient-centered care.
“The MSTU program was started with the singular goal of reducing the disability resulting from stroke,” explains Dr Michael Lerario, Medical Director of NYP’s MSTU Program and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “There is a term we use when we talk about stroke: Time is Brain. Every minute that passes after blood flow is even partially cut off from the brain, 1.9 million brain cells die from the lack of oxygen. This loss can lead to severe cognitive and physical disability for patients.”
Two feet longer than a regular New York City ambulance, the MSTU houses a Samsung portable computer tomography (CT) scanner, a point-of-care laboratory, a complete mobile EHR station (with super-fast WiFi) and a Cisco tele-presence system. The MSTU is staffed by four team members who are specially trained:
- 1 CT Technician
- 1 Registered Nurse (RN)
- 2 Paramedics
With this sophisticated equipment, the MSTU team is able to bring stroke treatment directly to patients where they are instead of waiting for the patient to be transported to the hospital’s ER. Those precious minutes can be the difference between a full recovery and months of rehabilitation (or permanent disability).
When a 911 call comes in, the operator quickly determines if it is a potential stoke situation using a predetermined set of criteria (Plerior referrs to them as “triggers”). This specific protocol was jointly developed by NYP and the New York Fire Department which handles all 911 calls. If the criteria are met, the MSTU is dispatched to the patient’s location.
Upon arrival, the MSTU team stabilizes the patient and quickly conducts a number of diagnostic tests using the equipment onboard: PT/INR test, hemoglobin test and a CT scan. The CT images are sent wirelessly in real-time to NYP’s PACS system where the on-call neurologist reviews the results with the MSTU’s RN via a tele-conference. Based on the scans and the onsite lab work, the neurologist and the onsite team can decide the best course of treatment.
If the scans show that the patient is suffering an ischemic stroke (an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain) and is not already taking anticoagulant medication, then tPA (tissue plasminogen activator – a clot dissolving medication) can immediately be administered. Often referred to as the “gold standard” of Ischemic Stroke Treatment, if tPA is administered quickly it significantly improves the chances for a full recovery.
“Right from the beginning we had complete buy-in and support from within our organization,” says Lerario. “The Neurology and Emergency Medical Services departments in particular were very excited about the MSTU program. They had seen the positive impact MSTU’s were having in Europe and the team wanted to bring that treatment to the people of New York City.”
In just one year of operation, the MSTU has been dispatched on 400+ calls and the response from patients has been universally positive. In fact, a number of cases have been highlighted as good news stories in the press including one about a famous Brazilian singer.
“It won’t be long before mobile stroke treatment will become the standard of care,” Lerario continues. “The benefits are now well documented and more and more people are becoming aware of the impact an MSTU can have on your quality of life following a stroke. People are starting to demand this type of care from their care providers.”
MSTUs are also fantastic for healthcare as a whole. It costs far less to operate an MSTU than it does to treat and rehabilitate patients who suffer disabilities because tPA was not administered quickly enough.
From a patient, provider and public perspective, New York Presbyterian’s MSTU is a winning combination of healthcare technology and patient-centered thinking.