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URMC / Research / Research@URMC / December 2013 / “Virtual” House Calls Provide Effective Parkinson’s Care

“Virtual” House Calls Provide Effective Parkinson’s Care

telemedicineWhen James Parkinson published an essay in 1817 describing the condition that would eventually bear his name, his findings were formulated – in great part – by watching people walk the streets and parks near his home in London.  Flash forward some 200 years and this basic principal of observation could enable neurologists to provide care directly to Parkinson’s patients who are sitting in their own living rooms thousands of miles away. 

A new study in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice led by URMC neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A. shows that a simple Internet connected computer with a web camera can provide effective specialized care for Parkinson’s patients.   While the underlying technology – akin to Skype or FaceTime – has widely available for several years, its application to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease could be a game changer. 

While there are plenty of neurologists in the U.S. to treat the estimated one million Americans with the condition, some 40 percent of Parkinson’s sufferers have never seen a specialist.     For patients who do not live close to large urban academic medical centers (where neurologists tend to be concentrated) or have limited mobility, seeing a specialists is easier said than done.  However, Parkinson’s patients who do not see a neurologist are far more likely to have poor health outcomes.

In the study, Dorsey conducted virtual house calls with 50 Parkinson’s patients from five different states.   These visits resulted in meaningful changes to their care – including modifying the medications the people were taking – and universal patient satisfaction.

Dorsey and his colleagues are now launching a larger study that will follow Parkinson’s patients via telemedicine over a longer period of time.   The goal of these studies is to both demonstrate that telemedicine is effective (not only for Parkinson’s but potentially a longer list of chronic conditions) and convince policy-makers that financial and regulatory barriers to its widespread adoption should be altered. 

You can read more about the Neurology: Clinical Practice study here.

Mark Michaud | 12/5/2013

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