People living in the Albury Wodonga region who suffer a suspected stroke can now receive expert neurological opinion from Melbourne – without leaving their hospital bed.

The new stroke telemedicine program was launched today by Federal Health Minister and Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley MP.

“This service is vital when you consider that over 400 people in the Albury Wodonga region suffer a stroke each year and approximately 250,000 Australians are living with the consequences of stroke,” Ms Ley says.

“It is the leading cause of long-term adult disability with about 50 per cent of survivors dependent on others to help them with everyday living. For this reason alone, we need to do all we can to help those with a suspected stroke to receive fast, expert assessment – wherever their location.”

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health has developed the stroke telemedicine program, linking city-based neurologists to emergency department doctors at Albury-Wodonga Health.

Sixteen other rural and regional Victorian hospitals will also be linked to neurologists at the Royal Melbourne and other major metropolitan hospitals.

Using very high quality, real time video conferencing through Telstra and hospital 4G networks, neurologists in Melbourne can see vital data including brain imaging, ensuring fast and effective remote consultations with their rural colleagues.

The result? The greatest number of expert treatment options for the patient including thrombolysis (clot-busting drugs) and assessment for endovascular surgery (removal of a brain clot using a stent). These recent advances are improving survival rates and are reducing disability but rapid diagnosis and treatment (within six hours of the stroke onset) is essential for the best outcomes.

“Time is critical when it comes to diagnosing and treating stroke,” says Professor Geoffrey Donnan, neurologist and Director of the Florey.

The program is supported by significant investment from consortium partners including the Australian Government ($7.3 million), the Victorian State Government ($1.2M), Monash University, Polycom, Telstra and Boehringer Ingelheim.