Patients who survive a stroke need specialized care and rehabilitation. However, not all hospitals have specialized stroke units. And not all stroke victims have close access to a medical facility. Thus, the concept of telemedicine is being harnessed to augment the shortcomings of medical care. Medicine.net defines telemedicine as
the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications for the health and education of the patient or healthcare provider and for the purpose of improving patient care. Telemedicine includes consultative, diagnostic, and treatment services.
This study by German researchers in the state of Bavaria evaluated the feasibility and outcome of a project that included telemedicine. The Telemedical Project for Integrative Stroke Care (TEMPiS) involved two specialized academic stroke centers which collaborated with several community hospitals. The key components of the program are as follows:
- Establishing stroke units at the community hospitals, including forming multidisciplinary stroke teams to provide care;
- Installing monitoring equipment and facilities;
- Training and educating members of the stroke team, including continuous bedside teaching by specialist physicians, nurses and therapists;
- Implementing standard treatment protocols; and
- Twenty-four-hour telemedicine consultation provided by the academic stroke centers.
The researchers then compared the progress of the patients at five TEMPiS clinics and 5 non-TEMPiS clinics. A total of 3,060 stroke survivors were followed up at 3 months, 12 months, and 30 months.
The results of the study showed that stroke patients treated at any of the TEMPiS hospitals had a 35% lower likelihood of death and loss of indepedence after 12 months and 20% after 30 months compared to patients treated in non-TEMPiS clinics. Aside from the high quality care for stroke victims, the researchers believe that telemedicine played an important rolew in the improved outcomes among TEMPiS-treated patients.
Previous studies have shown that telemedicine in the form of home monitoring is effective among patients with cardiovascular disorders.
“The advent of telemedicine has provided an opportunity to expand the reach of specialized acute care services to virtually any hospital, regardless of location. Telemedicine involves using communication links to transmit and receive data and information at remote locations.”
Understandably, a big advantage of telemedicine is reduced health costs. Some researchers also believe that this method can bridge the socio-economic gap in health care.
However, there are also some downsides to telemedicine that have to be pointed out. There are those who fear that increased use of technology is dehumanizing the science of medicine, that there is no room for empath