Telemedicine has been making headlines for facilitating timely stroke treatment and increasing access to care in rural areas, but other specialties are finding substantial benefits, too. This summer, preliminary results from a randomized clinical trial of telemedicine for Parkinson’s patients were released; these initial findings look very promising.
In the ongoing study, researchers found that conducting follow-up visits via telemedicine resulted in a high level of compliance and a significantly higher proportion of time spent with a healthcare professional as compared to in-person visits. As of this writing, 95 percent of scheduled telemedicine visits were successfully completed, and the proportion of visit time spent with a healthcare provider averaged 89 percent, versus 25 percent for in-office visits. Patients reported being very satisfied with their virtual visits, while clinicians rated 85 percent of the visits as “very satisfactory” or “satisfactory.” The only significant complaint was from the clinicians, who experienced some problems with video quality; this is expected to become a non-issue as broadband networks grow and Internet access improves.
Among the study’s goals are improving quality of life for Parkinson’s patients and lightening the burden on healthcare providers when caring for this population, described neurologist Dr. Ray Dorsey, one of the study’s leaders and co-director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics in Rochester, New York. As he explained, the U.S. has plenty of neurologists to treat those with Parkinson disease and other movement disorders, but they are not as geographically widespread as the patients are. As a result, the hassle of getting to a doctor prevents many individuals from obtaining the care they want and need.
In a previous pilot study, Dorsey found that remote visits via telemedicine saved patients roughly 100 miles of driving and three hours of time for each visit. He and other researchers are looking towards this project to confirm this.
The study, Connect.Parkinson, includes clinics in 18 states and 182 Parkinson’s patients, with half receiving virtual visits and half following the usual in-office regimen. A poster presented these preliminary findings in San Diego at the 2015 International Congress of Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders.