A rural-urban disparity exists in acute stroke management practices in Arizona. A proposed solution is a statewide acute stroke care plan centered on stroke telemedicine. Our purpose was to evaluate the emergency stroke resources available at and care provided by remote Arizona hospitals and to formulate a 5-year stroke telemedicine plan for Arizona rural residents. We used the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association Web site to identify all eligible institutions. Consenting personnel were mailed the survey on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health Services. To construct the 5-year telemedicine plan, we used survey data as well as our previously designed stroke telemedicine research trial. We estimated the resources, the geographic coverage, and the operating costs. Thirty-five hospitals met survey eligibility criteria; however, 24/35 (69%) hospitals completed the survey. Only one hospital had neurologists on call 24/7. Hospitals thrombolysed 2%-4% of all stroke patients annually. Ninety percent of the hospitals were interested in participating in a statewide telemedicine initiative. The stroke telemedicine plan divided Arizona into two regions, each with a one-hub to three-spoke ratio. The budget was estimated to be U.S. $8,141,217.10 for 5 years. Remote communities of Arizona were underserviced with regard to the availability of neurologists and the delivery of emergency stroke care. The majority of the remote emergency departments were interested in participating as spoke sites in a statewide stroke telemedicine initiative. Telemedicine may be an effective method to provide expert care to stroke patients located in rural areas.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00623350.