Access to Specialized Care Through Telemedicine in Limited-Resource Country: Initial 1,065 Teleconsultations in Albania.

Telemed J E Health 2016 12 24;22(12):1024-1031. Epub 2016 May 24.

3 International Virtual e-Hospital Foundation and Integrated Telemedicine and e-Health Program of Albania , Tirana, Albania .

Objective: To analyze the initial experience of the nationwide clinical telemedicine program of Albania, as a model of implementation of telemedicine using "Initiate-Build-Operate-Transfer" strategy.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of prospectively collected data from teleconsultations in Albania between January 1, 2014 and August 26, 2015, delivered synchronously, asynchronously, or a combination of both methods. Patient's demographics, mode of consultation, clinical specialty, hospitals providing referral and consultation, time from initial call to completion of consultation, and patient disposition following teleconsultation were analyzed. Challenges of the newly created program have been identified and analyzed as well.

Results: There were 1,065 teleconsultations performed altogether during the study period. Ninety-one patients with autism managed via telemedicine were not included in this analysis and will be reported separately. Of 974 teleconsults, the majority were for radiology, neurotrauma, and stroke (55%, 16%, and 10% respectively). Asynchronous technology accounted for nearly two-thirds of all teleconsultations (63.7%), followed by combined (24.3%), and then synchronous (12.0%). Of 974 cases, only 20.0% of patients in 2014 and 22.72% of patients in 2015 were transferred to a tertiary hospital. A majority (98.5%) of all teleconsultations were conducted within the country itself.

Conclusions: The Integrated Telemedicine and e-Health program of Albania has become a useful tool to improve access to high-quality healthcare, particularly in high demanding specialty disciplines. A number of challenges were identified and these should serve as lessons for other countries in their quest to establish nationwide telemedicine programs.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2016.0050DOI Listing
December 2016
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