Telemedicine Effectively Connects Parkinson’s Patients, Neurologists

Parkinson’s disease currently impacts as many as one million Americans, per the Parkinson’s Foundation, with about 60,000 people each year receiving a new diagnosis. What’s more, each year the disease accounts for approximately $25 billion in health care spending, between the costs of treatment, lost wages, and other factors. But according to the results of a new study, the use of telemedicine visits can effectively connect patients and their neurologists—and such visits tend to be crucial to keeping patients healthier and out of the hospital. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, the study is the first of its kind. “People’s care was as effective as with the in-office visits, and the virtual house calls provided the participants with convenience and comfort,” Ray Dorsey, the study’s lead author, said in an American Academy of Neurology (AAN) press release accompanying the study’s results.

The study’s results, published in the most recent edition of the journal Neurology, are drawn from a pilot program based at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. It provided one group of patients with as many as four “virtual house calls” on top of their ordinary in-person visits with their neurologists, while a control group simply attended their regular in-person visits. Neurologist visits, Dorsey noted, are critical for Parkinson’s patients. “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,” he said. However, such visits often require traveling long distances. To that end, the researchers sought to determine whether virtual visits might be a viable solution. The results? “The virtual house calls were as effective as in-person visits,” explained the AAN press release, which also noted that quality of life was equal among both patient groups. What’s more, patients saved significant time on travel to provider appointments—an average of 169 minutes and about 100 miles that would regularly be spent in transit. Further, satisfaction was high among patients (97 percent) and providers (86 percent), with 55 percent of patients even indicating that they preferred the virtual appointments to in-office encounters.

Notably, the study’s authors and the AAN also touch on a common theme—the numerous current restrictions that Medicare places on reimbursement for telemedicine services, including the lack of reimbursement for at-home visits. Said AAN member Dr. David Shprecher of Parkinson’s patients, “Virtual house calls have the potential to dramatically increase access to care for people with such a debilitating disease.” Shprecher, in an op-ed piece, further called for the addition of reimbursement for in-home visits. As we’ve reported before, of the numerous telehealth-related bills introduced during the 115th Congress, many specifically target Medicare restrictions. Among them: the Evidence-Based Telehealth Expansion Act, the Telehealth Enhancement Act, and the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act.

Click here to read the article from mHealth Intelligence on the Parkinson’s virtual visit study.

Click here to view the press release from the American Academy of Neurology on the study results.

Click here to read the abstract from Neurology on the Parkinson’s virtual visit study (full study requires registration).

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