Parkinson's disease patients get as much benefit from seeing a neurologist via home video conference as from seeing a local doctor in person, a new study reports.
The research included nearly 200 patients who received either care from their usual doctor or their usual care plus up to four video (virtual) visits with a neurologist they had not seen before.
The virtual visits were as effective as in-person visits. In both groups, quality of life, quality of care and burden on caregivers was the same, the study found.
Each virtual visit saved patients an average of 169 minutes and nearly 100 miles of driving. Ninety-seven percent of patients and 86 percent of neurologists said they were satisfied with the virtual visits, and 55 percent of patients said they preferred virtual visits over in-person visits.
Parkinson's disease is a motor system disorder resulting in tremor, slow movement, stiffness, and impaired balance and coordination. The disease is progressive and usually affects people over age 60, according to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The study was published online Aug. 16 in the journal Neurology.
"Over 40 percent of people with Parkinson's disease never receive care from a neurologist, yet studies have shown that people who see a neurologist are less likely to be hospitalized with illnesses related to Parkinson's disease, have greater independence and are less likely to die prematurely," said study author Dr. Ray Dorsey. He's a professor of neurology from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
"People were very interested in taking part in this study, and the results showed that these virtual house calls were feasible for people with Parkinson's disease. People's care was as effective as with the in-office visits, and the virtual house calls provided the participants with convenience and comfort," Dorsey said in a journal news release.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. David Shprecher wrote, "Virtual house calls have the potential to dramatically increase access to care for people with such a debilitating disease.
"The 21st Century Cures Act mandated a report on which chronic conditions could be improved most by the expansion of telemedicine. Parkinson's disease should be considered for this report, and it should expand the definition of telemedicine to include the virtual house call," he added.
Shprecher is with the Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Ariz.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on Parkinson's disease.
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