New research from the Mayo Clinic finds financial benefits for member hospitals in a network providing telemedicine services for stroke patients. The study, published this week in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, adds to previous research that found telestroke services as cost-effective from a societal perspective in preventing disability.
The Mayo Clinic has been at the forefront of telemedicine services in Arizona, showing benefits for assessing concussions at rural hospitals and the use of smartphones for image sharing in telestroke programs.
Using data from Mayo and the Georgia Health Sciences University telestroke networks, researchers estimated the financial benefit in a hub-and-spoke network involving seven spoke hospitals.
Compared to hospitals with no telemedicine network, the model estimated that each year, 45 more patients would be treated with intravenous thrombolysis, and 20 more with endovascular stroke therapies--leading to roughly six more independent patients being discharged home, according to the researchers. Those discharges saved each rural hospital more than $100,000, according to an accompanying announcement.
"The upfront costs associated with setting up the telestroke technology and managing the network organization are quickly offset by the financial gains that result from a higher proportion of patients receiving clot-busting drugs and the reduced stroke-related disability and subsequent reduced need for rehabilitation, nursing home care and assistance at home," said study co-author Bart Demaerschalk, director of Mayo Clinic Telestroke Program.
For networks that enhance rural hospitals' ability to effectively assess, treat and admit more patients with stroke, it makes sense that the spoke hospitals should contribute to financing the telestroke network system, the authors concluded. They added that hospitals "should consider their available resources and the network features when deciding whether to join or set up a network."
Telehealth is considered one of the most promising technologies for the care of chronic illnesses. Its benefits are being explored beyond diagnosis and assessment. Researchers at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis have developed the home telerehabilitation program that instructs patients in exercises and adaptive strategies.