Every minute a stroke is left untreated can mean the difference between a permanent disability and full recovery. That’s because up to 2 million brain cells die every 60 seconds when oxygen and nutrients are cut off.

To speed treatment, Novant Health has partnered with Viz.ai, a software platform that utilizes artificial intelligence to synchronize stroke care and reduce delays that can stand between patients and life-saving treatments.

Dr. Laurie McWilliams
Dr. Laurie McWilliams

Time is very critical for the brain and we need to shave off minutes every opportunity we can,” said Dr. Laurie McWilliams, a Novant Health neurointensivist.

The technology analyzes images for a suspected blockage of one of the main arteries of the brain, technically known as large vessel occlusion (LVO) strokes. Every Novant Health stroke specialist has access to Viz.ai on their smartphone.

How it works

A typical scenario would find a patient arriving at the emergency room and receiving a CT scan. Those images, through the Viz.ai app, are immediately analyzed for suspected LVOs, and sent instantly to every provider’s phone. No longer do laptops need to be powered up, or numerous phone calls made between providers that could cause delays.

Conversations and image-sharing happen in real time, which speeds the process. Using Viz.ai can potentially save critical minutes or hours in the triage, diagnosis and treatment of strokes.

Novant Health is the first health care system in the Carolinas to partner with Viz.ai, a leading applied artificial intelligence company. Viz.ai is located in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, Israel, and backed by Silicon Valley investors.

Dr. eric deshaies
Dr. Eric Deshaies

“By having technologies such as Viz.ai, we're able to more effectively and efficiently triage patients and get them transferred to the appropriate level of care,” said Dr. Eric Deshaies, a Novant Health neurosurgeon and system physician executive of Novant Health Neuroscience & Psychiatry Institute. “The study can be done very short period of time, sometimes as little as two minutes after the patient gets in the CT scanner.”

The artificial intelligence component means that as it compiles more data it will get better at a variety of facets of stroke detection.  

That’s vital, because Novant Health’s footprint in three states (both Carolinas and Virginia) is firmly in the Stroke Belt.” It’s the unofficial name for an 11-state region of the southeastern U.S. which studies show that the stroke risk is 34 percent higher for the general population than in other areas of the country. Lifestyle and socioeconomic status can be key risk factors.

More than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, strokes accounted for 5,098 deaths in North Carolina.

Each year, about 1,100 stroke patients are treated at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. Another 800 or so are treated at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.

Novant Health is one of four health care systems in the U.S. with two Joint Commission advanced certified comprehensive stroke centers (Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center and Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center).

For information about stroke care

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