“Join,” an imaging technology-based telemedicine system, allows simultaneous radiological information sharing between physically remote institutions, virtually connecting advanced medical institutions and rural hospitals. This study aimed to elucidate the health economics effect of Join for neurological telemedicine in rural areas in Hokkaido, Japan.
Information concerning 189 requests for patient transfer from Furano Kyokai Hospital, a regional rural hospital, to Asahikawa Medical University Hospital (AMUH), an advanced Academic medical institution, was retrospectively collected. The Join system was established between Furano Kyokai Hospital and AMUH in February 2019. Data collected from patients between April 2017 and December 2018 were included in the non-Join group, and those collected between February 2019 and October 2020 were included in the Join group. Clinical variables, reasons for patient transfer requests, duration of hospital stay, and medical costs per patient were analyzed between these two groups. Furthermore, clinical characteristics were compared between patients who were transferred and not transferred based on Join.
More patients were discharged < 7 days after transfer to AMUH in the non-Join group compared with the Join group (p = 0.02). When focusing on the Join group, more patients who were not transferred were discharged < 1 week (p < 0.01). On the other hand, more patients required surgery (p = 0.01) when transferred. The ratio of patients whose medical cost was < USD5000 substantially decreased, from 33% for the non-Join group to 13% for the Join group.
An imaging technology-based telemedicine system, Join, contributed to reducing unnecessary neuro-emergency patient transfer in a remote rural area, and telemedicine with an integrated smartphone system allowed medical personnel to effectively triage at a distance neuro-emergency patients requiring advanced tertiary care.
health system economics; neuro-emergency; telemedicine system.