Nearly 300,000 people each year suffer a stroke in Germany. Stroke is thus the third leading cause of death and the most common cause for premature long-term disability. The costs for treatment and rehabilitation amount to more than 8 billion Euro each year in Germany. The short time span between the acute event and professional expertise with an adequate therapy following decides about the loss of brain tissue (“Time is Brain”) and therefore about the extent of the consequential damage.

This was the starting-point for the launch of the Stroke-Net project with the partners CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin, TU Berlin and MEYTEC, supported by the Berliner Feuerwehr and further cooperating clinics. Telemedical devices were developed which transfer vital data and video images of the patient directly from the scene and/or the ambulance vehicle to a stroke unit. Now it can be decided during the pre-clinical rescue operation whether to hospitalize the patient either in a dedicated clinic with a stroke unit or the nearest emergency ward. The technical partners from research institutes and business companies have developed a technology ensuring the automatic choice and use of the best suited radio communication ways.

The system also makes the knowhow of a stroke unit available to the cooperating clinics even if the clinics do not operate it themselves. The clinical partners and emergency services developed and tested the telemedically supported concept of treatment.

Use of neurological expertise of a stroke unit via telemedicine already in the ambulance vehicle.

The approach is based on the concentrated medical, scientific and technological knowledge and an existing complex infrastructure in Berlin. The StrokeNet project lays the foundation for an improved quality of prompt diagnostics and therapy of acute stroke patients. By deploying new mobile media and their integration into self-organizing intelligent networks the project was exemplarily implemented.

Currently three ambulances of the Berliner Feuerwehr stationed in the fire stations Schillerpark, Zehlendorf and Wannsee are equipped with the StrokeNet system. The ambulances communicate directly with their dedicated stroke unit in the Charité which is also integrated. Currently a feasabilitiy study examines the degree of congruency of the telemedically determined diagnoses with the ones determined in the emergency ward.

Stroke is a first indication for the deployment of the aforementioned technologies and organizational structures. Plans for the future envision the adaptation of the system for other illnesses and emergencies like the ambulatory care for polytrauma patients and cardiac emergencies or chronically ill patients. Plans have also been made to involve doctors in private practice and rehabilitation facilities too.