When someone experiences a stroke, a blockage causing a lack of blood flow to the brain, minutes are crucial because brain cells begin to die, an estimated 2 million every minute. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability to occur that can include paralysis, speech and vision problems and memory loss, according to the American Stroke Association.
The seriousness of a stroke and the importance of getting medical aid quickly have prompted hospitals and health technology companies to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help reduce the time in the triage, diagnosis and treatment of strokes, with the goal of improving outcomes for patients.
This month, New Hanover Regional Medical Center will begin using Viz LVO, a cloud-based imaging platform from the company Viz.ai that uses artificial intelligence to help medical providers identify strokes.
NHRMC stroke physicians have already been accessing Viz.ai images from Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center. In 2019, Novant announced a partnership with Viz.ai, an artificial intelligence care coordination company based in San Francisco that has the goal to “fundamentally improve how healthcare is delivered in the world,” as stated on its website.
“Brunswick Medical Center was the first step in our use of the technology and the beginning of our advancement and using artificial intelligence to help us identify and target stroke patients in the fastest times possible,” said Jeffrey Beecher, an endovascular neurosurgeon and NHRMC’s director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery.
According to Viz.ai, its product can reduce the standard workflow from 123 minutes to 34 minutes. And, in a study the company conducted with 300 patients, the company’s software could notify a stroke neurologist about 7 minutes on average after brain imaging occurred, much quicker than the traditional procedure.
Typically, when a patient might be having a stroke, a code stroke is activated at NHRMC that initiates the stroke team to the patient or to meet the patient upon arrival to the hospital, Beecher said.
The stroke team evaluates the patient while obtaining necessary lab work and appropriate access to the patient so that diagnostic tests can be performed. The patient is then tested to determine the type of stroke, and the best treatment modality is then selected, he added.
With Viz LVO, physicians receive alerts and images on their phones. They can access the CT image on their phone and zoom in and manipulate it in the same way they could in radiology.
Viz LVO, which stands for large vessel occlusion, a type of stroke, uses AI algorithms to analyze images for suspected LVOs and notifies medical specialists the findings along with images that can be viewed through an app.
“It [Viz.ai] has improved care between Brunswick Medical Center and NHRMC. Without this, there are significant delays as outside hospitals try to reach us by phone,” said Vinodh Doss, an interventional neurologist and NHRMC’s medical director of stroke and neurointerventional surgery. “If we can implement AI technology, it cuts down times, improves communication and thereby improves patient care.
“It’s the leverage of technology to get patients the best care possible as fast as possible,” he added.
This time-saving that the Viz.ai product can provide is critical for patients at NHRMC and partnering facilities in the region, officials said.
“Time is brain,” Doss said. “If we can reduce treatment times then we can save brain, therefore reducing morbidity and mortality.”
“The technology brings the imaging directly to us, the treating physicians, and we can find these things before the patient is even off the CT table,” Beecher added.
The stride to partner with Viz.ai and adopt more technologies at its health care facilities are part of Novant’s goal to use technology to advance patient care and specifically to provide access to the most advanced stroke care, officials said.
“Novant Health is committed to using leading edge technology to connect with and care for our patients,” said Angela Yochem, executive vice president and chief digital and tech officer for Novant Health, in a press release. “Viz.ai is just one of the many ways Novant Health looks to incorporate artificial intelligence in improving the efficiency and quality of patient care.”
With increased use in technology, hospitals, health care staff and patients can benefit from early access, improved communication, reduced treatment and transfer times and it regionalizes care, said Doss.
“The advancements in technology in the medical fields have been tremendous, especially in the neuro space,” Beecher said. “We have had great advances that allow us to not only identify the appropriate patients and ways to get them to the appropriate doctors faster, but also it has advanced the treatment options that we have for different patients.”