PHOENIX -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 800,000 Americans experience a stroke and 130,000 of those cases are fatal, which makes strokes one of the leading causes of death in America.
For patients, the most critical time for treatment is within three to fours hours immediately following a stroke. For those living in Arizona's rural communities, getting that immediate treatment can be challenging.
Dr. Bart Demaerschalk at the Mayo Hospital in Phoenix has found a way to get around that challenge. He and some co-workers have a developed a program called Telestroke.
Telestroke is a telemedicine audio and visual device system. It's best described as a "robotic" doctor for stroke patients. The robot allows a doctor hundreds of miles away to assess and treat a patient. The doctor remotely controls the robot and follows patients through rural community emergency rooms. He can even view a patient's vital signs or take and look at X-rays and CT scans. After all that, the doctor can recommend treatment options for the patient.
Right now, there are 12 Telestroke robots throughout Arizona towns. It is Demaerschalk's hope to eventually have other telemedicine programs available for other emergencies that may arise in rural communities.