Telemedicine allows for effective care of Parkinson's patients

A new study shows that telemedicine is an effective means of caring for people with Parkinson's disease.

Virtual house calls could allow patients with Parkinson's to live independently and manage the symptoms of the disease, according to University of Rochester research published today in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice

"The idea that we can provide care to individuals with Parkinson's disease regardless of where they live is both a simple and revolutionary concept," said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., senior author of the study in an announcement. "This study demonstrates that, by employing essentially the same technology that grandparents use to talk to their grandchildren, we can expand access to the specialized care that we know will improve patients' quality of life and health."

From August 2012 to May 2013, five patients in five states participated in a telemedicine consultation with a specialist that included overview of history, a neurological examination and recommendations. Afterward, participants filled out a survey, which found that patient satisfaction exceeded 90 percent for nearly all aspects of the visit. Patients received recommendations, such as to exercise (86 percent), change current medication (63 percent) and add new medication (53 percent).

"Parkinson's disease particularly lends itself to telemedicine because many aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of the disease are "visual"--meaning that the interaction with the doctor primarily consists of observing the patient perform certain tasks such as holding their hands out and walking and listening to the patient's history," according to the URMC study announcement.

The authors contend that specialists could also apply this approach to a number of other chronic conditions,such as autism, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure. 

In June, FierceHealthIT rounded up five online interventions to improve health and wellness, including controlling blood pressure, monitoring newborns, getting multiple sclerosis patients walking more, managing chronic pain and encouraging teens to make healthier choices.

This summer, panelists speaking at an Alliance for Health Reform event said that telehealth would be a vital cog in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, with its ability to lower care costs and extend care.

In late November, a survey from the Pew Research Center and the California HealthCare Foundation found that while people with chronic conditions are now more likely than ever before to seek health information online, they most prefer to reach to a physician for information. 

To learn more:
- read the study announcement 
- here's the study (.pdf)

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