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Considerations for the Implementation of a Telestroke Network: A Systematic Review

      Abstract

      The application of telestroke has matured considerably since its inception in 1999. The use of telestroke is now recommended in several published guidelines. Consequently, jurisdictions without a telestroke service are seeking practical information on the best approach to implement telestroke. French et al. (2013) reviewed the challenges of implementing a telestroke network including studies between 2000 and 2010. At the time, telestroke networks were largely limited to the UK, USA, Canada and Europe and only one process evaluation had been conducted. Given the prolific expansion of telestroke services since 2010, we conducted a systematic review to determine factors associated with successful establishment, management, and sustainability of a contemporary telestroke services. A comprehensive search of telestroke studies was conducted in July 2021. Empirical studies published between 2010 and 2021 were included if they contained descriptive, evaluation or operational data on the implementation of a telestroke network. Studies were subsequently evaluated using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). The initial literature search revealed a total of 7415 potential studies; 38 of which met the inclusion criteria. The past decade of process evaluation studies has enabled a more nuanced investigations into how to implement and sustain a telestroke network. Pre-implementation planning is crucial to ensure clear telestroke processes, governance structures and stakeholder engagement. Sustainability of networks relies on securing long-term investment, providing adequate resources, and maintaining staff motivation and willingness. Recommendations are provided to overcome commonly identified barriers related to technology, staffing, planning and standardisation of processes, evaluation, and sustainability and scale-up. Further research needs to explore how new advancements in stroke care such as endovascular clot retrieval (EVT) and advanced brain imaging can be considered and planned for during the implementation of a new telestroke service.

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