Telehealth shows promise for Parkinson’s patients

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The healthcare industry continues to expand the role of telemedicine for treatment of low-acuity ailments and chronic illnesses. It’s currently being used to help children with autism, high school football players with possible concussions, and as a way to combat addiction. Now a new program is emerging that could bring the ease of telehealth consultations to patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), helping them to connect with specialists across the United States.

As the U.S. population ages, Parkinson's disease becomes more and more prevalent. 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and there are 1 million Americans currently living with the disease. After being diagnosed with PD, more than 40% of patients do not seek treatment with a neurologist during the first four years. This leads to greater mobility problems for patients as their disease progresses, and makes it more difficult for them to receive medical care in the future. Adding to the problem, is the fact that neurologists are currently in short supply. Ray Dorsey, M.D., Director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics at University of Rochester Medical Center, is attempting to solve this problem through the use of teleneurology.

Using HIPAA-compliant technology, he consults with patients in their homes or at Parkinson's clinics where the interaction is managed by a nurse. Thus, he’s able to reach patients who were previously unable to seek the care of a neurologist due to a lack of mobility or availability of specialists. Another provider taking advantage of teleneurology, Jason Aldred, M.D. of Washington, uses teleneurolgoy to follow-up with patients he sees in his private practice and five clinic sites in Washington.

The teleheatlh industry is gaining more acceptance nationwide for low-acuity ailments and will hopefully continue to see its uses expanded to impact underserved populations, such as patients living with Parkinson's disease.