Telestroke programs significantly boost care access for rural patients

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that a telestroke program based in Oregon was able to increase access to stroke care by 40 percent in regions of the Beaver State. Their findings are being presented this week at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th annual meeting in San Diego.

According to an announcement touting the presentation, telemedicine programs in rural parts of Oregon upped the percentage of residents with access to stroke care within one hour from 54.5 percent to 80 percent. The researchers noted that in-person stoke care was crowded in urban areas, and while telestroke care was available in urban centers, it didn't reach less populated, uninsured areas quite as well.

Previous work by the same researchers published in February 2010 found that half of Americans live more than an hour away from lifesaving stroke care.

"Telestroke programs can reach patients in smaller communities and provide time-critical treatment to previously unreached people," senior study author Brendan Carr, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, surgery, & epidemiology at UPenn said. "Increasing telestroke networks gives everyone a better chance of surviving a stroke, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States."

Research published in December 2012 found that telemedicine services for stroke patients were cost-effective and saved lives. Compared to hospitals with no telemedicine network, research from the Mayo Clinic and Georgia Health Sciences University estimated that each year, 45 more patients would be treated with intravenous thrombolysis, and 20 more with endovascular stroke therapies (prescribed through telemedicine)--leading to roughly six more independent patients being discharged home. Those discharges saved each rural hospital more than $100,000.

Remote rehabilitation programs for stroke patients, especially in rural areas, have helped them improve lower-body function and get back in regular day-to-day routines.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

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