Receiving healthcare from a neurologist can be of great benefit to people with Parkinson’s disease, however in-person visits can also be a burden. Now, a new study published in the journal, Neurology, suggests that taking a telemedicine approach to Parkinson’s care could be just as effective for patients as visits to their local doctor’s office.
“Over 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease never receive care from a neurologist, yet studies have shown that people who see a neurologist are less likely to be hospitalized with illnesses related to Parkinson’s disease, have greater independence and are less likely to die prematurely,” said Dr. Ray Dorsey, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “We wanted to see if virtual house calls would be feasible for people with Parkinson’s disease.”
Dorsey and his team recruited Parkinson’s patients through multiple outreach programs – including PatientsLikeMe, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the National Parkinson Foundation – to study the effectiveness of video conferences with neurologists. In all, 927 individuals applied to take part in the study, and the researchers chose 195 participants.
“People were very interested in taking part in this study, and the results showed that these virtual house calls were feasible for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Dorsey. “People’s care was as effective as with the in-office visits, and the virtual house calls provided the participants with convenience and comfort.”
Some participants received their usual care at their physician’s office, along with as many as four video conferences with a neurologist. Participants in the control group continued to see their primary care provider alone.
Dorsey and his colleagues used multiple measures to assess the effectiveness of the telemedicine approach, including a quality of life scale and a feasibility measure based on each patient’s on-time completion of at least one video conference. The quality of life for people taking part in the telemedicine appointments was on-par with that of patients only receiving in-person care.
What’s more, 98 percent of the study participants completed at least one virtual conference, suggesting that this could be a feasible approach to care. The average patient saved 169 minutes of transportation time and almost 100 miles for each telemedicine appointment.
“Virtual house calls have the potential to dramatically increase access to care for people with such a debilitating disease,” said David Shprecher, DO, Msci, of Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Ariz., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “The 21st Century Cures Act mandated a report on which chronic conditions could be improved most by the expansion of telemedicine. Parkinson’s disease should be considered for this report, and it should expand the definition of telemedicine to include the virtual house call.”