Dec 20 2019

How Grady Health System's Mobile Stroke Unit Saves Minutes and Lives

The specially equipped ambulance helps teams assess patients during transport.

Collaboration technologies are greatly influencing healthcare organizations, which have become increasingly reliant on text messaging solutions, unified collaboration suites and videoconferencing tools to connect both business and clinical teams.

“Healthcare organizations are using collaboration technologies to communicate in real time, to brainstorm and to integrate videoconferencing and other tools in HIPAA-compliant solutions,” Wayne Kurtzman, research director for social media and collaboration at IDC, recently told HealthTech. “They’re looking to do more with less, and do it better than ever before, and sometimes that requires cross-silo communication.”

One example of an organization that’s adopted that mindset: Grady Health System.

READ MORE: Collaboration tools help to keep healthcare teams connected.

How Collaborative Tech Helps Improve Care Delivery

Recently, Tom Beaver was stuck on a major Atlanta expressway near the hospital where he works. He saw an ambulance racing its way through the traffic, siren blaring, and instantly recognized the vehicle as a mobile stroke unit.

“It really hit home that a patient was being taken care of before they got to the hospital,” says Beaver, executive director of technology at Grady Health System.

In May 2018, Grady launched its mobile stroke unit — the first in Georgia and one of the first 20 in the entire country — to deliver care to stroke victims sooner. The ambulance is equipped with a CT scanner, cameras and video collaboration technology so hospital physicians can assess patients during transport.

“When a patient is experiencing a stroke, time equals brain,” says Glenn Hilburn, Grady’s vice president of clinical systems.

Because drugs can’t be administered until physicians can confirm that a patient is having an ischemic stroke, the mobile stroke unit uses wireless connectivity over two different cellular networks to relay scans and video images to the hospital so a consensus can be reached.

Solutions such as these are blurring the lines between what clinicians and business teams traditionally refer to as either “collaboration” or “telehealth.” But organizations hoping to implement this type of collaborative environment shouldn’t merely focus on the technology deployment.

Collaboration is very much culture-based,” Kurtzman says. “You need a focus on a shared purpose, and you need trust.” Which is exactly what Grady is concentrated on building.

Grady employees know that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what their mobile stroke unit is referred to as because it’s one of the highest-impact uses of collaboration technologies for the health system.

“It’s making tremendous headway in our stroke care,” Hilburn says.

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