Acute stroke is one of the main causes of death and chronic disability. Thrombolysis, achieved by administering recombinant tissue plasminogen activator within 4.5 h, is an effective therapeutic option for ischemic stroke. However, less than 2-12 % of patients receive this treatment and a major reason is that most patients reach the hospital too late. Several time-saving measures should be implemented. Firstly, optimized and continual public awareness campaigns for patients should be initiated to reduce delays in notifying the emergency medical service. Secondly, emergency medical service personnel should develop protocols for prenotification of the receiving hospital. Other suggested measures involve educating emergency medical service personnel to systematically use scales for recognizing the symptoms of stroke and to triage patients to experienced stroke centers. In the future, administering treatment at the emergency site (mobile stroke unit concept) may allow more than a small minority of patients to benefit from available recanalization treatment options.