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Telemedicine: At Work Today, in Georgia

Broadband has allowed doctors in Georgia to save lives and minimize the potentially devastating impact of strokes on rural Georgians. The REACH system -- the name stands for Remote Evaluation of Acute Ischemic Stroke -- connects the Medical College of Georgia’s neurology department with ten rural Georgia hospitals.

When a patient has a stroke, there is a three-hour window for doctors to determine whether the stroke is caused by clotting or bleeding, and administer life-saving/enhancing medicine. However, the medicine that saves individuals suffering from a stroke caused by a clot will be devastating to individuals suffering from a stroke caused by bleeding. Thus, an examination by an experienced professional is required. Most often, there is little possibility of getting a stroke victim from rural Georgia to the few urban hospitals that have access to stroke specialists within the three-hour window.

Once a stroke patient is taken to a rural community hospital, the REACH program -- using high-speed broadband -- allows a doctor anywhere in the world with access to a computer to conduct a quick examination of the patient, determine the type of stroke, and prescribe the correct medicine. Specifically, the physician at the community hospital calls the "tertiary" medical center which contacts an on-call neurologist. The neurologist assesses the patient through the REACH system via the internet, examines the patient’s responses to certain physical directions via video, assesses the patient according to the National Institutes of Health stroke scale, and prescribes the correct medicine.

Dozens of rural Georgians have benefited from this program. Broadband does not merely improve the REACH program; it makes the REACH program possible.