Objective: To explore the relationship between state primary stroke center (PSC) designation policy implementation and access to optimal stroke care for residents of rural areas. Materials and Methods: Primary data were collected during the period September 2008-August 2009. Following content analysis of state PSC policies, four case study states were selected for fieldwork, in part for state rural healthcare access challenges. Variables included the barriers and facilitators to PSC designation policy implementation. More than 100 semistructured stakeholder interviews were conducted by teams of researchers. Large-group meetings were also observed. Interview summaries were reviewed by stakeholders for accuracy and completeness. Results: The consistent finding in all study states was that PSC designation and state policy implementation in rural areas are unlikely for a variety of reasons, including lack of financial resources for telemedicine, difficulty maintaining neurology coverage, and emergency departments unable to administer thrombolytics. Findings indicate recognition by states about the need for stroke-care public policy specific to telemedicine in rural areas. Conclusions: Although state PSC designation policies raise awareness of rural issues, designation policy alone cannot overcome the obstacle of rural access to optimal stroke care. States must be technology-ready, and providers need to embrace e-health and telemedicine to ensure coordination of care for stroke victims in rural areas. More important is that state policy makers should provide rules and regulations to encourage PSC hospitals to use telemedicine and "proxy credentialing" to support their affiliated rural facilities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics
- Health Information Management