She agreed with Pitt that it's not all about technology. "The key to be successful is not necessarily the technology but the relationships you form and the structure you set up with the program," she says. You really need to take a step back in planning the program – develop a process and repeat it over and over again."
Although "not anti-technology," the hospital group could not afford making a large initial investment in IT for a telestroke program, Livesay says. "We've accomplished what we've done with a laptop, a Webcam and a connection with web services." Eventually, a telestroke program is about to produce its own "downstream revenue" because it has generated patients in need who can be served in other areas, Livesay says.
Such a community-based telestroke network that maximizes downstream revenue opportunities fosters physician relationships under a sustainable neurological business model, says Rob Fisher, RN, MBA, vice-president of cardiovascular center of excellence and neuroscience center of excellence at the St. John Providence Health System in Warren, MI.
"It's a critical factor in that relationship to have transparency," Fisher says.
As Gienna Shaw wrote in HealthLeaders Media, "if there's one technology that has the potential to fundamentally change access to healthcare in rural areas, it's surely teleheath."
That's backed by the 2011 HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey of technology leaders, which found 46% of respondents already have one or more telemedicine programs in place. Another 41% say they'll have one in place in one to five years.