THE VALUE OF TELEMEDICINE
Did you know that telemedicine is perhaps the fastest-growing segment of healthcare? Also called telehealth, it’s the use of telecommunications software, such as video conferencing, to help doctors diagnose and manage your medical care, without leaving your place of residence. With two decades of history and research behind it, telemedicine has become a well-established treatment intervention for neurologic diagnoses, including acute and chronic diseases. In recent years, the cost of video conferencing has plummeted and everyday access to technology has increased exponentially, allowing telemedicine to become a healthcare solution for patients living in remote areas or who have difficulty traveling to see their neurologist.
With telemedicine, the physician has the same clinical tools available for any in-person visit, but video allows much more flexibility and immediacy for service. Patients can meet with their physician while at home, in the office, or traveling, as long as they have a tablet or computer with Internet access. In addition to being convenient, video visits are also safe and secure.
While some patients may be hesitant to opt for a video visits, there are several real benefits for patients and their caregivers, such as:
- No stress and hassle of travel, traffic, and parking
- No extra time off work or school to wait in a doctor’s office
- Improved access to care
In remote areas where a neurologist is unavailable, high quality neurological care can still be delivered via telemedicine. For example, when a patient is having a stroke and thrombolysis may be indicated, a neurologist can work in conjunction with the local emergency department staff to help guide treatment planning for the appropriate delivery of care.
Parkinson’s disease patients receiving care via telemedicine have excellent outcomes, as proven by several studies on the value and feasibility of remote care. For the past decade, researchers at the University of Rochester have pioneered the use of telemedicine to treat Parkinson’s through a series of studies and pilot programs in the state of New York. The researchers found that most significant barriers to appropriate care for Parkinson’s patients are distance and disability and that telemedicine successfully removes those barriers. In fact, the video visits were demonstrated to be as effective as in-person visits in the doctor’s office.
Because many aspects of the treatment for Parkinson’s disease are observational in nature, telemedicine is particularly useful for these patients. For a movement disorder specialist like Neurologist Dr. Deborah Boland at Be Mobile Neurology, video visits are a great tool, allowing her to conduct medical interviews, discuss treatment options, observe movements and walking, or even see a tremor.
Through Be Mobile Neurology’s telemedicine service, Dr. Boland is treating a patient with a Parkinson’s plus disorder, which is an illness that attacks the brain and nerve cells. The patient’s condition makes it impossible to commute to see a movement disorder specialist, and the patient’s physical location makes it difficult for regular mobile neurology visits. With telemedicine, these hurdles are erased, allowing the patient and Dr. Boland to meet once every four to eight weeks. Video allows Dr. Boland to access the patient’s gait and function in real-time, providing a more impactful plan of care. During their most recent video visit, Dr. Boland made physical therapy and speech therapy recommendations, based on what she heard and saw. Had they only spoken on the telephone, Dr. Boland would not have seen the patient’s change in gait. By providing an in-office experience remotely, telemedicine allows patients like this one to receive high-quality medicine with unparalleled access to their physician.
But telemedicine is not just a treatment option for patients with Parkinson’s or similar disorders. Dr. Boland also has seen the real benefits of this approach her patients with a variety of diagnoses, including migraine headaches. In fact, the first ever study on the efficacy of telemedicine for headache patients was recently conducted by Neurologist Dr. Deborah I. Friedman of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Of the 40 patients in the trial, 22 were scheduled for telemedicine visits with the physician through an audio-visual link and eighteen were scheduled for in-office appointments over the course of a year. Both patient groups in the study showed a similar response to treatment, resulting in fewer headache days and reduced headache severity overall. However, the telemedicine group saved travel time and the consultation length for their visits was shorter.
Telemedicine is an attractive option for patients who have difficulty getting to a traditional clinic or fitting an office visit into their schedule. If you’re interested in learning more about video visits with Dr. Boland or any of Be Mobile Neurology’s services, please call (813) 981-4403 or visit us online.