-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- For rural hospitals that
don't have neurologists or stroke experts on staff, "telestroke"
may be a cost-effective option to improve the level of care for
stroke patients, researchers say.
Telestroke, or virtual stroke care, is stroke treatment by
health care professionals located remotely through two-way
"In an era of spiraling health care costs, our findings give critical information to medical policy makers," Dr. Jennifer J. Majersik, of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
"If barriers to using telestroke, such as low reimbursement rates and high equipment costs, are improved, telestroke has the potential to greatly diminish the striking disparity in stroke care for rural America," she added.
After analyzing data from previous telestroke studies and
hospital databases, the study authors determined the costs accrued
by stroke victims treated virtually as well as the number of years
added to their lives and their quality of life during those years
(quality-adjusted life years) and compared them to rural stroke
patients who did not receive virtual care.
The investigators found the cost of telestroke over a patient's
lifetime was less than $2,500 per quality-adjusted life year --
well below the $50,000 per year standard that is considered the
cut-off for cost-effectiveness, the study authors noted in the news
The researchers also pointed out that telestroke could improve
the rural use of tPA -- a clot-busting drug that can reduce death
and disability from stroke if taken within roughly three to four
hours of stroke onset.
"Only 2 to 4 percent of stroke patients receive this treatment, with the lowest percentage in rural areas largely because there aren't enough stroke experts with experience using tPA," Majersik, who is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology, explained in the news release.
"Telestroke has the potential to lower this barrier by providing long-distance consultation to rural areas, increasing the expertise and quality of stroke care at rural hospitals," she concluded.
The research is published in the Sept. 14 online issue of
Neurology. It was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
has more about
treatment for stroke.
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