Parkinson's patients show high demand for virtual visits

Demand for virtual visits from specialists is high among patients with Parkinson's disease, a recent study found, but broadband access remains a major barrier for many to receive the services.

Of the 11,734 patients who visited the study's website, 927 showed interest in participating, and of those, more than 200 enrolled in the study, according to an article published in Telemedicine and e-Health. The patients who participated were given access to telemedicine software, and those who did not have Web cameras were provided with them. Each person received four telehealth visits from a Parkinson's disease specialist over the course of a year.

At the end, 177 patients completed the virtual visits program and all 39 questions of the Parkinson's Disease Questionnaire.

"Interest and enrollment in this national randomized controlled trial of virtual house calls suggest that latent demand for this care model is high and that remote recruitment and enrollment may be feasible," the authors said.

Previous studies have shown the benefits of telemedicine use for people with Parkinson's disease. A 2013 study found that virtual house calls could allow patients with the disease to live independently and better manage symptoms. 

However, barriers still remain when it comes to telemedicine use. The authors of the Telemedicine and e-Health report note that while the study's participants had higher-than-average Internet skills, recruitment and enrollment "were likely affected by the Digital Divide."

"The characteristics of those with Parkinson's disease with the least access to care--older, rural dwelling, women, for example--are very similar to the characteristics seen in those with the least access to the Internet and broadband," they said.

Licensure and reimbursement also may have had an impact on the study, according to the authors; about 200 patients could not participate because "they live in the wrong state," they said. These kinds of barriers, the authors noted, can be seen throughout the healthcare industry when it comes to remote care.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract