How IT fuels stroke care at University of Texas System

Telemedicine

The University of Texas System has several projects underway to help improve care for stroke patients--many of which center on health IT.

One such initiative is the Lone Star Stroke Consortium, made up of researchers across several University of Texas institutions, Patricia Hurn, vice chancellor for research and innovation at the system, tells FierceHealthIT in an interview.

The group represents a lot of capability to conduct outreach and pull in patients from all over the state to be enrolled in clinical trials or research, she says. Much of the outreach is done through telestroke run on a hub-and-spoke model with six major hubs that reach out to treatment centers and hospitals.

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The network is supported statewide, Hurn says, with partnerships between academic stroke care and researchers, as well as funding from the state government. Currently, there are six trials going on, and with more funding expected, she says it should continue to make a big impact on how patients are enrolled in stroke trials.

"The whole purpose is not just to engage patients that come through the door of say, UT Southwestern, but to be able to extend it out to a lot of areas that are not served by a primary stroke center," she says.

Mobile healthcare is another aspect to stroke care at UT System.

One research effort is focused on using mobile technologies, like smartphones and tablets, to give stroke patients information on preventative care to avoid secondary stroke, Hurn says. There's a sensitive time element after a patient experiences their first stroke to prevent another one from happening. During that secondary prevention phase, patients must both recover from the first stroke while also learning how to make changes in lifestyle, diet and more.

Using mobile platforms, she says, patients can access education programs and providers can more easily examine data collected.

"That's a perfect example of where you have to use mobile to reach patients and we're pretty optimistic that the difference between that and standard care that doesn't engage with [mobile tools] may in fact turn out to be something we can demonstrate as helpful to patients and benefits them," Hurn says.

Another program UT System is working on, one that while it doesn't have a direct connection to stroke will still play a part in the care of such patients, is a clinical data network.

The effort recently was approved by the organization's board of regents and will be funded for $12 million. It will bring together "under one technological roof all of the clinical data from UT-based hospitals, practice plans and clinics," Hurn says.

The warehouse will open up access to data on all patients, and will allow for the ability to mine for things specific to stroke, she says.

That's also an important effort, Hurn adds, as one challenge they come up against is the ability to collect data, bring it together and mine it successfully.

Another striking challenge to using IT in stroke care, Hurn says, is getting the proper agreements in place to share data.

"That can take considerable amounts of time and effort to come up with the legal and financial structures around that, not to mention guarding the privacy of the data," she says.

There also are barriers for services like telestroke across boundaries and institutions to make sure technologies and policies are uniform to "run things in a network gathered way."

However, she adds, despite the challenges there is a "real interest and passion to work together to find ways to quickly treat stroke and engage in trials."

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