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Remote care of stroke patients saves money

February 11, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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A recent study by the Mayo Clinic shows that telemedicine can be a cost-saving alternative for people who have had strokes and their healthcare providers.

The study focused on the management of acute ischemic stroke in rural hub-and-spoke telestroke networks and looked at costs—including telemedicine setup and maintenance, initial and recurrent stroke treatment, rehabilitation, long-term care and caregiver costs.

The effectiveness of a telestroke network was defined as quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).

As stated in the study, the researchers concluded: "As the science of healthcare delivery continues to develop and test new technologies and care paradigms, it is critical that health economic evaluations assess their costs and health consequences compared with standard practice. In this study, we have demonstrated that compared with a patient receiving routine stroke care at a community hospital without a regional stroke system of care and telemedicine, a patient treated in a telestroke network incurred $1,436 lower costs and gained 0.02 QALYs over a lifetime. The cost difference accounts for the investment in setting up the telestroke network from both hub and spoke hospitals. The telestroke network was economically dominant over routine care."

The study results serve to show healthcare policymakers and care providers that "an up-front investment in telemedicine technology, connectivity, infrastructure, and stroke network personnel can be justified in our health system." the study authors wrote. "Government and nongovernment insurance plans should reimburse telestroke consultations in the same fashion as face-to-face clinical encounters."