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Trial to Test Electronic Media for Brain Injury Care

Illustration of brain (NIDA)

(National Institute of Drug Abuse)

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and collaborators in the upper Midwest will examine ways to use electronic media to improve the care of patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rural and underserved urban areas. The five-year clinical study is funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, part of the U.S. Department of Education.

The research involves the state health departments in Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota, as well as Sanford Health, a regional health care network in the Dakotas. “Our goal,” says Allen Brown, professor of physical medicine and principal investigator of the study, “is to test a model of care that delivers specialized brain rehabilitation resources to patients and providers in underserved locations.”

“In the upper Midwest, rural dwellers, the elderly and Native Americans have a high risk for TBI and are more likely to become isolated after acute care because of their impairment, distance from services, and financial concerns,” Brown notes. “We know early intervention and longitudinal care give people the best chance to minimize or prevent lasting effects of TBI, but that’s not always easy or feasible.”

Brown believes it is the first study of this scale to test using electronic technology to improve care with no face-to-face contact. The research, organized as a randomized clinical trial, will examine technologies such as telephone consultation, electronic health records, telemedicine, and virtual communication systems.

The trial, Brown says, “will test whether outcomes over three years are better in the group receiving this model of care compared to a group that receives usual care in their communities.” The project is expected to provide guidance to specialists on using advanced technologies to reduce the occurrence of complex medical and psychosocial problems by providing support and education to underserved areas and to community clinicians who see patients there.

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