Telemedicine is already in use to help patients with stroke treatment or debilitating chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease; now, a study is exploring whether the platform can work for patients with multiple sclerosis. The University of California Riverside was awarded a $100,000 grant from biotech firm Genentech to set up a one-year pilot program in order to determine whether an MS telemedicine visit can replace office visits for patients who have difficulties with travel.
The objectives of the study are to see whether the format of the telemedicine visits is acceptable to patients, to determine whether the patients have the full range of communication with the provider that they normally have during in-person visits, and to compare the outcomes of in-person visits with those of telemedicine visits.
Patients with advanced MS often face a lot of disability, making it hard to leave their homes—even for a local office visit. Bringing the provider into the home virtually would meet the patient’s medical needs while offering convenience, comfort, and a safe environment. With such advantages, it’s not hard to understand why the telemedicine visits are also proving popular with patients who live hours away from their doctors.
For the UC Riverside study, the participating adults with MS will be divided into two groups. One group will receive traditional in-person care, while the other group will be visited at home by a nurse practitioner who will set up the telemedicine call with a neuro-immunologist at UC Riverside. Both types of visits will consist of a neurological assessment. The treatment methods will be compared across variables including quality of life, fatigue, pain levels, and mental health, among others.
If the program is successful, the researchers plan to look into remote monitoring and patient-directed telemedicine visits.