Participating in a telehealth network for stroke care -- known as telestroke care -- can lead to financial benefits for member hospitals, according to a study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, FierceHealthIT reports.
For the study, researchers used data from telestroke networks run by the Mayo Clinic and Georgia Health Sciences University (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 12/5).
They then created a model to compare five-year costs for health care facilities that offer telestroke care with facilities that do not.
The study found that a telestroke network with a main hub hospital and seven "spoke" hospitals that treated a total of 1,112 acute ischemic stroke patients per year could save a total of about $358,435 annually. According to the study, decreased patient transfers from the hub hospital to spoke hospitals accounted for the majority of savings.
The study also found that each year, participation in a telestroke network was associated with:
- 114 fewer acute ischemic stroke patients admitted to the hub hospital;
- 16 additional stroke patients admitted to each spoke hospital;
- 45 more intravenous thrombolysis treatments;
- 20 more endovascular stroke therapy treatments; and
- Six additional patients being discharged from hospital care (Gale, Clinical Innovation & Technology, 12/5).
The additional patient discharges helped rural hospitals participating in the telestroke network each save more than $100,000 per year, according to the study (FierceHealthIT, 12/5).
Comments on Findings
Jeffrey Switzer -- lead author of the study and assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia -- said the study suggests that participating in a telestroke network "can be a cost-effective strategy and should be considered by decision makers to improve the quality of stroke care" (Clinical Innovation & Technology, 12/5).
Bart Demaerschalk -- co-author of the study and director of the Mayo Clinic Telestroke Program -- said that the upfront costs of setting up telestroke networks 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."
The researchers also noted that hospitals "should consider their available resources and the network features when deciding whether to join or set up a network" (FierceHealthIT, 12/5).