Is telemedicine helping or hindering the delivery of stroke thrombolysis in rural areas? A qualitative analysis.

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Publication Date: 
Sep 03, 2015

BACKGROUND: Fast diagnosis and delivery of treatment to patients experiencing acute stroke can reduce subsequent disability. While telemedicine can improve rural community access to specialists and facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment decisions, it is not widely used for stroke in Australia.

AIM: Identifying the barriers and facilitators to clinician engagement with, and utilisation of, telemedicine consultations could expedite implementation in rural and remote locations.

METHODS: Purposive sampling was used to identify and recruit medical and nursing staff varying in telemedicine experience across one hospital department. Twenty-four in-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted examining aspects surrounding stroke telemedicine uptake. Inductive qualitative thematic analysis was undertaken, and two further researchers verified coding.

RESULTS: The main barriers identified were contrasting opinions about the utility of thrombolysis for treating acute stroke, lack of confidence in the telemedicine system, perceived limited need for specialist advice and concerns about receiving advice from an unfamiliar doctor. Facilitators included assistance with diagnosis and treatment, the need for a user-friendly system and access to specialists for complex cases.

CONCLUSIONS: Acceptability of telemedicine for acute stroke was multifaceted and closely aligned with regional clinician beliefs about the value of thrombolysis for stroke, highlighting an important area for education. Addressing beliefs about treatment efficacy and other perceived barriers is important for establishing a stroke telemedicine programme.

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