Time is of the essence in treating stroke — for every minute that a patient isn’t treated, millions of brain cells die. Telemedicine — commonly referred to as “telestroke” — is highly effective in improving patient access to quality stroke care and thereby reducing disability.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association supports the FAST Act (Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act, S. 431/H.R.1148). Medicare only reimburses for a telestroke evaluation when the patient is located in a rural area. The FAST Act would provide Medicare reimbursement for telestroke services when the patient presents with stroke symptoms in an urban or suburban hospital. About 94 percent of all strokes occur in urban or suburban areas, and people in these areas also deserve access to the improved care that telestroke provides.