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Efficacy of Telemedicine for Stroke: Pooled Analysis of the Stroke Team Remote Evaluation Using a Digital Observation Camera (STRokE DOC) and STRokE DOC Arizona Telestroke Trials

Telemedicine and e-Health. April 2012, 18(3): 230-237. doi:10.1089/tmj.2011.0116. Bart M. Demaerschalk, Rema Raman, Karin Ernstrom, and Brett C. Meyer.

Background and Purpose: Telemedicine can disseminate vascular neurology expertise and optimize recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) use for acute ischemic stroke in rural underserved communities. The purpose of this study was to prospectively assess whether telemedicine or telephone was superior for decision-making.

Methods: The study design is a pooled analysis of two identically designed randomized controlled trials conducted in a multistate hub and spoke telestroke network setting with acute stroke syndrome patients, comparing telemedicine versus telephone-only consultations. From each trial, common data elements were pooled to assess, principally, for correctness of thrombolysis decision-making. Secondary outcomes included rt-PA use rate, 90-day functional outcome, post-thrombolysis intracranial hemorrhage, and data completeness.

Results: Two hundred seventy-six pooled patients were evaluated. Correct thrombolysis eligibility decisions were made more often with telemedicine (96% telemedicine, 83% telephone; odds ratio [OR] 4.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.69–10.46; p=0.002). Intravenous rt-PA usage was 26% (29% telemedicine, 24% telephone; OR 1.27; 95% CI 0.71–2.25; p=0.41). Ninety-day outcomes were not different for Barthel Index, modified Rankin Scale, or mortality. There was no difference in post-thrombolysis intracranial hemorrhage (8% telemedicine, 6% telephone; p>0.999).

Conclusions: This pooled analysis supports the hypothesis that stroke telemedicine consultations, compared with telephone-only, result in more accurate decision-making. Together with high rt-PA utilization rate, low post-rt-PA intracranial hemorrhage rate, and acceptable patient outcome, the results confirm that telemedicine is a viable consultative tool for acute stroke. The replication of the hub and spoke network infrastructure supports the generalizability of telemedicine when used in broader settings.

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