I’m honored to be on the list of presenters at the American Telemedicine Association’s International Conference & Tradeshow in Orlando, April 23-25. My topic? How teleneurology marks an important evolution in telemedicine—and how it delivers ROI on three levels to hospitals that use it.
Most of us know the statistics by now: How there is currently an 11-percent shortage of neurologists. How this shortage is expected to reach nearly 20 percent by 2025. How the uneven geographic spread of neurologists compounds the problem for rural hospitals.
The news is grim, to be sure, but there is a silver lining: Namely, how easily the teleneurology model is being implemented in and accepted by rural hospital patients and staff. If teleneurology is an important evolution in telehealth, what’s also important is how unrevolutionary it is for the hospitals who use it.
Smooth adoption, big benefits
I think it’s worth noting how quickly and smoothly teleneurology becomes a part of the total healthcare package a hospital provides to its community. Rather than disturbing the landscape and shaking up the status quo, teleneurology fits right in. Emergency Department (ED) physicians like it. Nurses and other clinical staff adapt to it immediately. Patients love the fact that the specialist comes to them, rather than the patient having to travel long distances to the specialist. The CEO and COO are onboard, too. And because teleneurology reduces patient transfers to big-city hospitals, small-town EMS teams like it, too. Because EMS teams are drawn away less often from the communities they serve, they view the hospital as a good partner, and a good neighbor.
Unprecedented returns in three key areas
During the ATA session, a real-world case study on INTEGRIS Bass Baptist Health Center’s state-of-the-art teleneurology program will be presented to demonstrate how the Oklahoma facility is realizing unprecedented benefits from the program in three key areas:
- Financial ROI. A typical stroke DRG (diagnosis-related group) reimbursement is $8,500. If the patient needs tPA treatment and can stay in the local hospital, the DRG reimbursement level is even higher, typically $13,000. This is revenue that hospitals keep when they are equipped to treat patients with stroke and other acute neurological emergencies.
- Community ROI. The rural hospitals are often among the largest employers in their hometowns. By helping them find new care models that contribute to their financial survival, telemedicine programs provide a tremendous
- Patient ROI. Obviously, patients living in rural communities should not be penalized with limited access to specialty care. With teleneurology, this “penalty” is significantly reduced.
Time is brain
The main benefit of teleneurology is time. For every hour of an untreated stroke, a patient loses the brain function equivalent to 3.6 years of normal aging. For a stroke episode of three to six hours, this could mean losing brain function that is typically lost over a period of 10 to 20 years. It is not an overstatement to say that teleneurology can make the difference between a stroke patient being treated quickly and going home the next day, or spending the rest of his or her life in a nursing home.
Teleneurology programs dramatically reduce the time between episode and treatment for patients. And thanks to teleneurology, “rural” no longer has to mean “remote”. We are proud to be leaders in bringing those programs to hospitals today. And we commend INTEGRIS Bass and all the other hospitals that have taken the necessary steps to provide this valuable service to their communities.
I can’t speak for all of them, but for the ones that are partners with Eagle Telemedicine, the steps were far easier—and the results greater—than they ever anticipated.