Telehealth: A Valuable Asset to Those Living with Movement Disorders

Telemedicine is proving to be a lifeline for people living with Parkinson’s disease. 

More than 60% have been connecting with their physician through virtual visits, according to new research. That’s five times the number who were using telemedicine just under a year ago.

Because Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects, among other things, movement and speech, patients must continually manage symptoms. Their physicians must consistently monitor disease progression and response to treatment. So when pandemic precautions threatened to disrupt care, telehealth became an essential tool for Parkinson’s disease management. 

And Parkinson’s patients aren’t the only ones benefitting.

Patients with a wide range of movement disorders and neurological conditions, such as spasticity and cervical dystonia, expressed high satisfaction with telehealth during the pandemic. A survey report from Vanderbilt University Medical Center notes that more than 97% of patients were “very highly or highly confident” in the telehealth care they received. 

Patients with Parkinson’s disease reported similarly favorable opinions. In fact, the telehealth experience among patients has been so favorable that nearly half, or 46%, want to continue using it after the pandemic. 

“Although telehealth won’t replace the need for in-person visits, it has proven a worthwhile complement,” said David Charles, MD, a neurologist and co-author of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Teleneurology COVID-19 Experience study. “From the comfort of their own homes, patients are most open and trusting with their physicians.”

Telehealth visits also save time and reduce expenses. 

With in-person visits, patients with movement disorders may have to rely on caregivers to accompany them. Some must travel a great distance, and at significant cost, to receive in-person care. Telehealth reduces transportation costs, time spent in a crowded waiting room and the need for logistics planning. While telehealth may not be appropriate for all patients or all circumstances, it is one more tool in the toolbox of patient-centered care.

If the experience of movement disorders patients is any indication, telehealth seems poised to become a regular part of patient-centered care for the long term. 

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