BACKGROUND: Systematic clinical trials are often unavailable to evaluate and optimize operational telestroke networks. In a complementary approach, readily available routine clinical data were analyzed in this study to evaluate the effect of a telestroke network over a 4-year period. METHODS: Routine clinical data from the HELIOS hospital information system were compared before and after implementation of the NeuroNet concept, including neurologic acute stroke teleconsultations, standard operating procedures, and peer review quality management in 3 hospital cohorts: 5 comprehensive stroke centers, 5 NeuroNet hospitals, and 5 matched control hospitals. RESULTS: During the study period, the rate of thrombolytic therapy increased by 4.8% in NeuroNet hospitals, while ischemic stroke in-hospital mortality decreased (relative risk reduction ∼29% in NeuroNet and control hospitals). The odds ratio for thrombolytic therapy in comprehensive stroke centers compared to NeuroNet hospitals was reduced from 3.7 to 1.3 between 2006 and 2009. Comprehensive stroke care coding according to German Diagnosis Related Groups definitions increased by 45% in NeuroNet (P < .0001) and by 18% in control hospitals. CONCLUSIONS: Routine clinical data on in-hospital mortality, the rate of thrombolytic therapy, and comprehensive stroke care coding reflect different aspects of acute stroke care improvement related to the implementation of the telemedical NeuroNet concept and unified quality management (standard operating procedure teaching concept, peer review process). Similar evaluation processes could contribute to quality monitoring in other telestroke networks.
Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, 2013, Vol 22, Issue 7, p. 984-990