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Telemed J E Health. 2008 May;14(4):339-44. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2007.0062.

Outcomes from a comprehensive stroke telemedicine program.

Author information

  • 1Department of Neurology, Room N4W46, University of Maryland Medical Center, 22 South Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA. mlamonte@umm.edu

Abstract

Our team has studied the use of telemedicine to overcome obstacles to providing acute stroke care and expanding stroke education. We report a summary of our outcomes to provide evidence supporting greater development of stroke telehealth systems. Stroke telemedicine is audio-video communication (teleconferencing) between a stroke specialist and a remote party requiring stroke services. Using several models, we tested the validity, reliability, and effectiveness of telemedicine versus telephone consultations and face-to-face (traditional) medical care and education. Because of the challenges inherent to technology studies, we found a prospective, case control design most practical for testing hypotheses related to a comparison of telemedicine and traditional service delivery. Telemedicine-assisted neurologic evaluation and stroke diagnosis were as valid and reliable as traditionally delivered services. Clinical effectiveness was demonstrated by shortening times to treatment (17 [telemedicine] vs. 33 [control] minutes; p = 0.003) and increasing tissue plasminogen activator use at a remote hospital (from 5% to 24%). Evaluation of telemedicine as a means to expand stroke education to distant communities revealed that telemedicine and direct education achieve equivalent academic results. Stroke services delivered by telemedicine are safe, efficacious, and comparable to those rendered face-to-face. Telemedicine is a means of providing disability-reducing therapies earlier to a large number of patients. The current, geographically defined scheme for telemedicine service reimbursement fails to recognize that the main barrier to stroke care is lack of available stroke specialists. Contractual and third-party reimbursement structures should be modified to surmount this impediment to extending stroke specialty care and community education.

PMID:
18570562
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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