Telehealth Treatment for Parkinson’s

August 24, 2017 By InTouch Health

Each year, there are 60,000 new diagnoses of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in the U.S. alone – and 10 million people worldwide suffer from it. Now telehealth is making PD specialty care more readily available around the globe.

The National Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that most PD patients don’t currently have access to neurologists who specialize in movement disorders (most of whom are affiliated with large academic medical centers). For example, about 7,000 PD patients in the Rochester, New York area haven’t seen a specialist in five years.

In response, the University of Rochester Medical Center recently began partnering with the Parkinson’s Disease Care New York program to remotely treat 500 underserved PD patients, including 400 who live in the nine-county Rochester area.

Telehealth works well in PD care because treatment is mainly visual, like watching patients walk or repeatedly tap their fingers together. Since PD patients have trouble with movement, balance and coordination, a virtual check-up eliminates the physical ordeal of visiting a specialist’s brick-and-mortar location.

Two recent studies in The Lancet – Neurology and JAMA Neurology show that telehealth has a bright future in PD treatment. The latter study found that virtual PD care saved patients an average of 100 miles of travel and three hours of time.

Since getting diagnosed with PD in the 1990s, actor Michael J. Fox has been a tireless champion for the Parkinson’s community. The Michael J. Fox Foundation raises millions for PD research, and regularly lobbies state legislators to use telehealth to treat the disease.

Thanks to telehealth, PD patients in underserved communities can now get the specialty care that someone like Fox receives in L.A. or New York. Like Fox’s movie adventure in a time-bending car, PD patients once saddled with 1950s-style care are getting back to the future with telehealth.