Telemedicine Provides Expert Stroke Care and Saves Money

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Telestroke, a telemedicine program that provides rural patients and emergency room physicians a real-time consultation with a remote neurologist, saves lives and money, according to Neurology, the online journal for the American Academy of Neurology.

Patients who present with stroke symptoms to rural emergency rooms may not have immediate access to neurological medical experts, which may cause delay in diagnosis and treatment. The Mayo Clinic Telestroke program provides two-way consultation via audio and video telemedicine with non-urban facilities throughout Arizona, allowing rural emergency room providers instant feedback and advice from Mayo Clinic stroke specialists.

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The current study evaluated the cost-effectiveness for establishing the network and infrastructure for Telestroke, and found that the cost of Telestroke over a stroke patient's lifetime was under $2,500 per year after adjustments for quality of life. This cost demonstrates that Telestroke is a low-cost, high-return investment for hospitals who care for patients in rural areas.

Rapid diagnosis and treatment not only saves lives, but also reduces health-care costs associated with stroke rehabilitation, such as nursing care, home care assistance and therapy. Rural stroke patients treated with the assistance of Telestroke were more likely to receive timely tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug that destroys clots and helps prevent long-term sequalae. Jennifer Majersik, MD, notes that, prior to Telestroke, a very low percentage of rural stroke patients received tPA. As Telestroke provides rapid consultation with specialists, more patients will appropriately receive tPA.

Mayo Clinic is expanding the Telestroke program to Florida and Minnesota.

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