AAN Debuts Teleneurology Curriculum

Each year, according to data from the American Stroke Association, almost 800,000 people across the United States experience a stroke. What’s more, strokes are responsible for approximately one out of every 20 annual deaths, killing almost 130,000 people, and are the leading cause of preventable disability. While immediate treatment can help to prevent death and disability, more than a third of Americans live more than an hour away from a facility that provides primary stroke care. But in recent years, telestroke care has been helping to fill in those gaps—and with more and more health care providers utilizing telestroke technologies, the need for a standardized curriculum with which to train them became clear. To that end, as mHealth Intelligence first reported, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has debuted a set of standards for the practice of teleneurology.

“Through teleneurology, we’re able to virtually treat patients using technologies such as two-way video conferencing, wireless sensors, and text- and image-based communication. This has shown tremendous promise and has already played a major role in acute stroke care,” said the University of Missouri’s Dr. Raghav Govindarajan, who led the development of the standards, in a statement. “Despite this, teleneurology training in residency programs is currently non-existent, or it is sporadic and inconsistent at best.” To that end, AAN curriculum convened a 12-person working group to bring some clarity to the emerging field. The resulting curriculum, adapted from a study the working group members published in the journal Neurology, includes five central components. It begins with an introduction to telehealth technologies, how they can be implemented, and what their limitations are. “A strong foundation of technical knowledge is essential for safe and effective care,” explains the statement. Trainees then move on to examine licensure, legal issues, and ethics; following that, they learn about how to develop a good “webside manner” that will allow them to most effectively connect with patients. After that, trainees focus on issues of privacy and informed consent, and finally on clinical skills that are specific to teleneurology: “Patients must receive the same standard of care that they would with an in-person provider,” the statement notes.

According to Govindarajan, the new AAN standards will help to bring more consistency to a field that, today, “is akin to the Wild West.” “Many practitioners may be operating without the necessary skills and expertise to best care for patients,” he explains in the university’s statement. “They’re putting their patients and themselves at unnecessary risk.” Besides providing uniform guidelines for training today’s providers, Govindarajan emphasized that the standards are designed for flexibility as the field of teleneurology continues to develop. “Our outline for a teleneurology curriculum is meant to be an evolving document that will continue to be adapted to best practices in the field,” he noted.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the new teleneurology curriculum.

Click here to read an article from the University of Missouri on the new curriculum. 

Click here to read the AAN teleneurology standards. 

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