Teleconsulta en neurology in a health unit: preliminary approach.

T Paiva, H Coelho, A Almeida, T Navarro, M T Araújo, C Belo

Abstract


This paper begins by discussing the influence of neurological diseases in the practice of general practitioners. A thorough review of the literature allows us to conclude that the frequency of neurological complaints in general practice varies between 7% and 15% and that complaints of sleep disorders reach about 26% in those cases. However, general practitioners do not refer all these neurological cases to a neurologist. They screen the cases and refer only 9% of all observed patients. Next, we briefly analyse the impact of telemedicine in general practice. Given this technique's novelty, we present a predictive model for the utility of teleconsultation, which we are currently developing and testing. We then summarise the current status of general practitioners' referrals to our hospital's neurological outpatient clinic, given previous measures that targeted waiting list reduction and adequate referral. After this overview, we present our methodology, which includes the development and implementation of the technologies needed for teleconsultation and the discussion and application of medical protocols for clinical data, benefits and costs. Simultaneously, we investigated the real need for teleconsultation in Neurology according to the literature and to several, more or less optimistic, models of acceptance. Based on this method, teleconsultation began its regular operation in July 1998. We discuss the result of the first 14 weeks of operation. We observed that referral developed according to calculated predictions and that there were clear advantages regarding diagnostics, medication, exam requests, cost avoidance and patient trips to the central hospital. The data collected predicts that this method is useful, efficient and able to substantially reduce costs.

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