Stroke app aids patient engagement in treatment choices

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UK researchers are testing a new iPad app that helps stroke patientshelp decide whether to receive or refuse thrombolysis.

Many stroke treatments only work when the stroke is identified early and the therapy applied within a few hours. But British researchers note that understanding and weighing the pros and cons in the midst of a medical crisis can be difficult. Patients and families often spend valuable time just trying to understand the treatment and its repercussions, according to a story at MedicalExpress.com. But having that understanding is crucial, according to a Department of Health analysis, because using thrombolysis in the wrong situation can result in intracranial hemorrhage or death.

"Before treatment, a clinician must assess the patient to ensure they are suitable to receive thrombolysis and then consider the balance of risks and benefits with the patient and/or relatives as appropriate," DOH officials say.

The new app, which is in pilot testing at hospitals in Newcastle and North Tynsdale, England, gives patients and their families a "visual representation" of the types of treatments the patient may need, plus bar charts, flowcharts and other graphic images that show the effects of using (or not using) thrombolysis in their case.

The goal is to help the patients and family members quickly and easily visualize the likelihood of recovery following each treatment option, the level of disability possible if thrombolysis isn't received, and the possibility of death with or without the treatment, MedicalExpress reports.

Patients and their families have said "it helps explain the options to enable them to come to a decision. We are also hearing that it provides medical teams with more information, quickly, and aids their discussions in explaining the benefits and risks clearly to patients and their families," according to Richard Thomson, professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Newcastle University's Institute of Health and Society.

Stroke care has already received lots of attention from the remote and mobile health industry. There are several mobile apps designed to help stroke patients with recovery and rehab, for example. And tele-stroke programs are cropping up around the U.S. to allow remote diagnosis by off-site neurologists.

But the British app may be one of the first to actually involve patients in treatment and care decisions before or during the event.

To learn more:
- read the coverage on MedicalXpress.com
- dig into a short but informative Department of Health analysis
- check out the National Health Services' DASH webpage

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