Background: University of Colorado Hospital, under the UCHealth system, developed a Mobile Stroke Unit (UCHealth MSU) which began clinical operation in January 2016 and added a second operational location in August 2016. As one of the first centers to institute ambulance-mounted brain imaging and neurologic evaluation and treatment in the field for acute stroke in the U.S., it was necessary to design unique, dynamic IT systems for operationalizing the MSU. These include high speed cellular, HIPAA-compliant cloud based environments and remote access to patient electronic medical records (EMR) and a reliable means for rapid image transfer. Here we describe novel technologies engineered and incorporated into the UCHealth MSU.
Methods: Technological data-handling aspects of the UCHealth MSU were reviewed. Functions evaluated included wireless connectivity while in transit, EMR capability in the field, computed tomography (CT) scanning and image transfer, and communications for tele-stroke neurologic assessment.
Results: The UCHealth MSU began clinical operation in January 2016, Wireless communications were designed with redundancy to avoid dropped signals during data transfer. Two IP destinations were assigned for videoconferencing and EMR data transfer, with split-tunnel architecture to direct traffic to each. Placement of the MSU antenna inside the unit reduced interference from home and business Wi-Fi routers encountered. Brain imaging acquired in the ambulance CT scanner is transferred initially to an onboard laptop, then via Citrix Receiver to a hospital-based server and can be visualized by the stroke neurologist, neuroradiologist and all other care providers. Picture Archiving Communications System (PACS) and Radiology Information System (RIS) are two of the XenApps used by CT technologists.
Conclusions: Technological hurdles associated with remote imaging, assessment, and treatment, are critical to overcome if time-saving benefits of mobile stroke protocols are to be recognized. Innovative and unique techniques developed to accommodate wireless communication and image transfer from the field in the UCHealth MSU may aid start-up of similar units elsewhere and serve as a framework to further improve this technology.