Aim: The purpose of this analysis was to assess the budgetary impact and cost effectiveness of the national use of thrombolysis with alteplase (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator; rt-PA) for acute ischaemic stroke via telemedicine in Denmark.
Methods: Computations were based on a Danish health economic model of thrombolysis treatment of acute ischaemic stroke via telemedicine. Cost data for stroke units and satellite clinics were taken from the first practical experiences in Denmark with implementing thrombolysis via telemedical linkage to the Stroke Department at Aarhus University Hospital. Effectiveness data were taken from a published pooled analysis of results from randomized controlled trials of alteplase.
Results: The calculations showed that the additional total costs to the hospitals of implementing thrombolysis with alteplase for acute ischaemic stroke via telemedicine were approximately $US3.0 (range 2.0-5.8) million per year in the case of five centres and five satellite clinics, or $US3.6 (range 2.4-7.0) million per year based on seven centres and seven satellite clinics. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was calculated to be approximately $US50,000 when taking a short time perspective (1 year), but thrombolysis was dominant (both cheaper and more effective) after as little as 2 years and cost effectiveness improved over longer time scales.
Conclusion: The budgetary impact of using thrombolysis with alteplase for acute ischaemic stroke via telemedicine depends on the existing capacity and organizational conditions at the local hospitals. The health economic model computations suggest that the macroeconomic costs may balance with savings in care and rehabilitation after as little as 2 years, and that potentially large long-term savings are associated with thrombolysis with alteplase delivered by telemedicine, although the long-term calculations are uncertain.