According to researchers of the Phoenix-based Mayo Clinic, telestroke shows promise as a cost-effective option for rural hospitals that do not have an around-the-clock neurologist or stroke expert on staff. The research appears in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
Bart Demaerschalk, MD, director of Mayo Clinic Telestroke Program, co-author of the telestroke cost-effectiveness study, notes that while prior studies have indicated telestroke’s cost-effectiveness from a societal perspective, “the costs and benefits from the perspectives of network hospitals have not been formally estimated.”
According to the Circulation study, compared with no network, a telestroke system of a singe hub and seven spoke hospitals may result in the use of more stroke therapies, more stroke patients discharged home independently, more clot-busting drugs, and ultimately a greater total cost savings for the entire network of hospitals. Researchers reportedly used data from Mayo Clinic and the Georgia Health Sciences University telestroke networks, and the resulting research model estimated that every year, compared to no telemedicine network, 45 more patients would be treated with intravenous thrombolysis and 20 more patients with endovascular stroke therapies, which the study indicates would lead to 6.11 more independent patients discharged home.
The results reflect a cost savings of more than $1,000 for each of the participating rural hospitals each year, researchers say. “If costs associated with the technology are reduced or if reimbursement opportunities increase, we will recognize that this treatment method may, in fact, save even more money,” Demaerschalk says.
Demaerschalk adds that study results also indicate that upfront costs linked to setting up the telestroke technology and managing the network organization may be offset by financial gains stemming from a higher rate of patients receiving clot-busting drugs, the reduced stroke-related disability, and the subsequent reduced need for rehabilitation, nursing home care, and assistance at home.
[Source: Mayo Clinic]