Study Details the Benefits of Telemedicine for Stroke Patients

New research published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke adds to the body of literature illustrating the value of telemedicine. 

The study, which was conducted in rural Bavaria, Germany, shows that using telecommunications to connect stroke experts to patients in rural areas can improve and sustain stroke care. In these stroke units, patients in regional hospitals had around-the-clock access to consultations with vascular neurologists at stroke centers, including evaluation of brain imaging and patient examination via videoconferencing when needed.

Researchers found that the use of the telemedicine systems resulted in a variety of positive results including the following: 

  • The number of patients receiving the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for ischemic (clot-caused) stroke rose from 2.6 percent to 15.5 percent.
  • The median time between a patient's arrival at a regional hospital until tPA was administered fell from 80 minutes to 40 minutes, exceeding American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's "target: stroke" goal of treating at least 50 percent of patients within 60 minutes.
  • The median time between onset of stroke symptoms and receiving tPA fell from 150 minutes to 120 minutes.

"Cooperation within medical networks can be a huge benefit for patients. Telemedicine is a wonderful option to support the close cooperation of physicians from regional hospitals and tertiary stroke centers," Peter Müller-Barna, M.D., lead author and consultant in the department of neurology at the Agatharied Hospital in Hausham, Germany, said in a news release statement.

Research studies such as this one could be what's fueling the popularity of telemedicine.  Indeed, according to a poll conducted in July of 2014 by the American Telemedicine Association, a large segment of the industry is offering, or plans to offer online patient consultations in the very near future. In fact, the ATA found that 47% of 475 providers polled are currently providing online services directly to patients.  Of those that indicated they do not currently deliver virtual services, 72% noted they are considering implementing them in the near future. The top three delivery methods included: video (77%), audio (57%), and peripheral devices (28%).