Telehealth programs can help improve access to life-saving stroke care, extending coverage to less populated areas in an effort to reduce disparities in stroke care access, according to a new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers found that telemedicine programs in Oregon pushed stroke coverage into previously uncovered, less populated areas and expanded coverage by approximately 40 percent.
"Telestroke programs can reach patients in smaller communities and provide time-critical treatment to previously unreached people," senior study author Brendan Carr, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine, surgery, and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "Increasing telestroke networks gives everyone a better chance of surviving a stroke, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States."
A 2010 study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that only 54.5 percent of Oregon residents could reach a stroke center by ground within 60 minutes. The new study shows that by employing telemedical systems in concert with in-person care, nearly 80 percent of residents had access to expert stroke care within one hour.
The study evaluated all hospitals in Oregon, finding that 43 percent of the population could reach a stroke center in person within 60 minutes, 76 percent had telemedical access, 40 percent had access to both, and 20 percent had no access to stroke care within an hour.
Researchers noted that in-person stroke care was clustered in urban areas, and while telestroke care was also available in urban centers, it also reached less populated areas with low rates of uninsured.