Introduction: To enhance the quality of neurosurgery consultations, triage, and transport decisions between a Level I trauma service neurosurgery program at the University of New Mexico Hospital and referring hospitals, a secure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant Web-based system was developed, to which digital neurological images could be sent for review by a neurosurgeon for consultation or patient transfer. Based upon prior experience of neurosurgery, it was predicted that 25% of transfer requests would be avoided if the neurosurgeons reviewed the computerized tomography scans at the time of a transfer request. In addition, it was predicted in 25% of the case that changes in management recommendations would take place independent of the transfer decision.
Methods: The program was designed to allow referring hospitals to transmit digital images to the Web site, providing consulting doctors with additional patient information. This project analyzed the neurosurgeons' responses to questions designed to determine if transport or management decisions were altered when using this telehealth program in response to a request for consultation or transfer from a rural facility.
Results: Analysis of the responses of the consulting neurosurgeons revealed that, after viewing the images, 44% of the potential transfers were avoided and 44% of consulted cases resulted in management recommendation changes independent of the transfer decision.
Conclusions: Use of the system resulted in improved triage and changes in transfer or management recommendations. A significant number of potential transfers were avoided, resulting in transport cost avoidance, more effective use of resources, and more appropriate use of the neurosurgery service as well as improved patient preparation.