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Two critical life-saving segments within the telehealth industry require telemedicine techniques to be made available to certain hospitals that do not have specific expertise in these areas in their medical staff. Surprisingly, these two areas involve conditions where the patient is facing life-threatening consequences if the proper response is not put into action.

It may be surprising to many people to learn that some hospitals do not have the capability to fully manage potential stroke patients. There are also hospitals within the US that do not have the Intensivists on-site to watch over patients who are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Stroke—Vital Statistics

The American Heart Association reports that in the US, stroke kills four people each hour. The association also reports:

  • In 2010, worldwide prevalence of stroke was 33 million, with 16.9 million people having a first stroke.
  • Stroke was the second leading global cause of death behind heart disease in 2013, accounting for 11.8% of total deaths worldwide.
  • Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 129,000 people a year.

The basic challenge facing medical professionals when they encounter a potential stroke patient is to confirm that an emergency case is indeed having a stroke.  Once this is determined, there is little time remaining for treatment. For example, in the case of an ischemic stroke, the medical team must be able to restore blood flow within three hours from the onset of the event or sooner. Although most non-medical professionals would probably say that once the patient reaches the hospital he or she will be treated quickly and effectively, this assumption is, unfortunately, entirely wrong. The sad truth is that, depending on the geographic location of the patient or the time of day, the nearest medical institution may lack the necessary neurological experts to properly administer to the patient.

Perhaps the real surprise here is that many hospitals do not have neurologists on staff for part or all of the day.  In fact, the American Hospital Association and the American Stroke Association report the shocking data that “about one-third of Americans live more than an hour from a primary stroke center, and only about 27 percent of stroke patients arrive at the hospital within 3.5 hours of symptom onset.” Even more shocking, “there are currently only 4 neurologists per 100,000 persons in the US, meaning that even emergency departments in urban and suburban areas are not able to have stroke neurologists readily available.

Enter TeleStroke Centers and Services

The American Heart Association along with The American Stroke Association defines TeleStroke treatment as, “the use of interactive videoconferencing in the delivery of acute stroke care. Specialists are provided with timely data to assist clinicians at the bedside in stroke-related decision making for patients presenting at distant facilities that do not have a stroke neurologist available around the clock.”  Fortunately, there are a number of TeleStroke Centers and specialty firms that support TeleStroke facilities.  In an upcoming 2016 research report covering the telehealth market, Frost & Sullivan reports that TeleStroke centers support local or regional hospitals by providing emergency consultation, patient triaging support, and in-patient teleconsultation.  The research also provides a selective list of institutions and suppliers active in this domain.  Familiar names in the TeleStroke world include: The Inova Health System, The Mayo Clinic, REACH Health, Telespecialists.com, The UCLA TeleStroke Program, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

Tele-ICU

In addition, another critical shortage plaguing our hospitals concerns the “Intensivists” needed to manage patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU).  Similar to the TeleStroke domain, there are documented findings that reveal hospitals in certain locations lack round-the-clock expert staffing. These facilities may turn to providers of telehealth services. The “Tele-ICU” is able to provide essential coverage from a remote location.  Once again, the combination of advanced communications technology and the distant but available practitioners of specialized telemedicine services are saving lives.  Frost & Sullivan agrees with industry research which states: “tele-ICUs will emerge as the prime way to ease the predicted shortage of intensivist physicians. 50,000 patients die annually from preventable deaths in the ICU, and intensivists have been shown to significantly improve outcomes. With a shortage of 10,000 ICU physicians forecast, our health system needs to find a way to compensate and tele-ICUs may be part of the answer.”

Major institutions and companies active within the Tele-ICU domain include: Advanced ICU Care, Banner Health, iMDsoft, In Touch Health, Inova, and Philips, among other well-known institutions.

The two areas of Telehealth referenced in this posting are included in the Frost & Sullivan assessment of the market potential of 18 segments and sub-segments of Telehealth. While areas such as TeleStroke and Tele-ICU, are clearly required at the institutional level, they remain complex expert services that must vie for funding and payer coverage.  In addition to these replacement services, there are many emerging telehealth segments that can augment established medical services within the telehealth market that are much less costly or complex to develop and build out.

Frost & Sullivan research has assessed the various segments and indicates some potential growth opportunities moving forward.

The upcoming 2016 report by Frost & Sullivan “US Telehealth Market, Forecast to 2021.  Medical Specialties Expected to Drive Growth,” is expected to be published in Q4 2016.

Additional Reports of Interest:

  • US Remote Patient Monitoring Market Is it Finally Ready to Make a Difference? NF6E-48, November 2015 http://www.frost.com/nf6e
  • US Telehealth Virtual Visits Market. Services for the 21st Century House Call K00D-48, May 2016 http://www.frost.com/k00d
  • US mHealth Market and Growth Opportunity Analysis. Mobile Services Shifting to Care and Case Management K093-48, September 2016 http://www.frost.com/k093

About Frost & Sullivan

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