Background: The transfer process for patients with large vessel occlusions from a community hospital to an intra-arterial therapy (IAT)-capable center often involves multiple teams of physicians and administrative personnel, leading to delays in care.
Objective We compared time metrics for spoke drip-and-ship telemedicine (TM) patients transferred for IAT to comprehensive stroke centers (CSC) in two different health systems: Kaiser Permanente (KP) with an integrated health care system of spokes and a 50 mile range using ambulances for transfer vs UTHealth (UTH), where patients are transferred by helicopter from varying health systems ranging up to 200 miles from the hub.
Methods: We retrospectively identified patients in the KP and UTH networks transferred from TM spokes to the CSC (KP—6 spokes and UTH -17 spokes). From 9/15 to 4/16, a total of 79 TM patients (KP-28 patients, UTH-51 patients) were transferred to the respective hubs for evaluation of IAT. Baseline clinical data, transfer, and IAT metrics were abstracted.
Results: On average, it takes ~90 minutes for a TM patient to arrive at the CSC hub once accepted by the transfer center. Patients in the KP Network arrive at the hub faster than UTH patients, but IAT metrics/outcomes are comparable. Over 50% of the patients did not undergo IAT on hub arrival mostly due to lack of clot on CTA (20/45) or symptom improvement (9/45).
Conclusion: In two large, yet different TM networks, the transfer time from spoke to hub needs to be shortened. Areas for improvement include spoke arrival to transfer acceptance and transfer acceptance to hub arrival. A prospective study is underway to develop best practice time parameters for this complex process of identifying and transferring patients eligible for IAT.