Telehealth Can’t Replace In-Person Care for Migraine Disease

Managing a painful and debilitating disease with no known cure is an uphill struggle for doctors and patients alike.

It’s not surprising, then, that people living with migraine disease and the health care providers who treat them have embraced innovations that make living with the condition easier. While telehealth is one of those innovations, providers and patients know that a balanced approach to care is best for a disease that can be uncertain and everchanging.

A Helpful Option

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many living with migraine disease relied on telehealth’s flexibility.

A migraine attack can strike at any time. And, depending on the person, severe symptoms like visual aura or extreme nausea can make even the shortest drive feel like a heroic act. In these situations, a telehealth appointment isn’t just the more convenient option, it’s also the safer one.

Telehealth also has been useful for connecting patients in rural and underserved areas with headache specialists hundreds of miles away. Remote check-ups can save hours or days of travel time.

And telehealth can take some pressure off of overcrowded hospitals. Headache pain, including migraine attacks, is among the leading causes of emergency department visits. Effective preventive care provided through virtual visits could divert thousands of ER visits every year.

But while telehealth is a valuable tool, it’s not a replacement for in-person care.

Rooted in In-Person Care

Given the scope and complexity of migraine disease, successful long-term treatment requires in-person care.

Migraine does not lend itself to one-size-fits-all treatment plans. Instead, migraine disease is experienced differently by each person, with each attack differing for some patients. As a result, arriving at a correct diagnosis and developing an effective management plan can be complicated.

In the spirit of patient-centered care, symptoms and treatment approaches should be revisited regularly. Creating and updating that plan requires a close partnership and communication between physician and patient, which is optimally achieved through in-person visits. For invisible diseases like migraine, much remains out of view during a virtual meeting.

An Effective Combination

Strategic use of telehealth as a supplement to in-person visits can result in optimal disease management for the more than 39 million Americans who live with migraine. As experience has shown, patients aren’t best served by one or the other, but by a balanced combination that works for them.

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