The Victorian Stroke Telemedicine (VST) program is an initiative which enables clinicians to collaborate across organisational boundaries to deliver the best care possible to patients with stroke, irrespective of their location. The VST program is a virtual system which links rural and regional Victorian hospitals to a network of Melbourne-based neurologists who can provide treatment advice about patients with acute stroke symptoms. The program relies on audio-visual communication between neurologists, patients and local doctors and there is real-time access to brain imaging to facilitate the remote consultations. The service is available 24 hours, 7 days, 365 days per year.
The objectives of the program are to evaluate the potential benefits of telemedicine for enhancing capability in regional hospitals, reduce diagnostic delays and improve access to effective acute stroke treatments. In particular, improving access to intravenous thrombolysis which is proven to lead to better patient outcomes.
Sixteen rural and regional hospitals throughout Victoria will participate in the program, which has a staggered rollout. Funding from the Victorian Government will enable the program to be implemented in four regional hospitals in the Loddon Mallee region – Bendigo Health, Mildura Base Hospital, Swan Hill District Health and Echuca Regional Health (from 2013-2014). Further funding by the Australian Government's Health and Hospitals Fund will allow continuation of the program in the Loddon Mallee region, whilst increasing the scope to include a further 12 hospitals across the other regions of Victoria. This will enable state-wide coverage of the telestroke service at rural and regional hospitals and is funded until 2018.