AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Telemedicine Increases Access to Critical Stroke Care

Researchers in studying the effectiveness of telemedicine programs in Oregon found that stroke coverage was pushed into previously uncovered less populated areas and expanded stroke coverage to rural areas. The results were found in a new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania studying telemedicine programs.

By employing telemedicine in concert with in-person care, nearly 80 percent of residents had access to expert stroke care within “the golden hour”.  Immediate access to high-quality emergency care is less common than one might think, leading to strokes being the fourth most common cause of death in the United States.  In-person stroke care is usually centered in large urban areas, and while telemedical stroke care is also available in urban centers, it is able to reach less populated areas that have low rates of uninsured patients.

The new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego in March.  The study found that telemedicine programs in Oregon expanded coverage by approximately 40 percent.

“Telestroke programs can reach patients in smaller communities and provide time-critical treatment to previously unreached people,” said senior study author Brendan Carr, MD, MA, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Surgery, & Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Increasing telestroke networks gives everyone a better chance of surviving a stroke.”

While many hospitals recognize the enormous benefits of providing immediate treatment to a patient using this technology, insurance plans are unlikely to cover the charges, and lack of financial support was cited by a third of hospitals as significantly limiting the growth of their programs.  Other factors, such as the absence of a robust, secure internet connection that can stream high-quality video, also prevent some hospitals from joining in regional programs.  Such inequities lead to disparities in access to health care.

Some supporters of the technology’s expansion argue that a combination of government and private initiatives will be necessary to ensure wide spread access to secure high-quality and high-speed bandwidth for telehealth applications.

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