A new study has found that video conferencing can deliver quality care to patients who have Parkinson’s disease. Published in the Aug. 16, 2017, online issue of Neurology®, this study is the first national randomized controlled trial of telemedicine to connect remote specialists to patients directly in their homes. The results support CAST’s technology policy priorities.
 
“Over 40% 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 Ray Dorsey, MD, the David M. Levy Professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study.
 
Many Parkinson’s patients live far from movement disorder specialists and/or have mobility and driving challenges that make doctor visits difficult. The 195 study participants received either their usual care from their usual providers or their usual care and up to four video conference visits with a neurologist who they had not seen before. The study did not include people with the disease who live in nursing homes, who account for nearly 25% of all Medicare beneficiaries with Parkinson’s disease.
 
Each virtual house call provided the same quality of care and saved the patients an average of 169 minutes and nearly 100 miles of driving. “Telemedicine is especially valuable to patients in remote, rural, and underserved areas because it gives them the ability to consult specialists they would otherwise have to travel hours to see,” said Peter Schmidt, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Chief Research and Clinical Officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) news.
 
“Broader adoption of this technology has the potential to expand access to patient-centered care,” Dorsey told URMC news.  “We now have the ability to reach anyone, anywhere but the promise and benefits of telemedicine will not be fully realized until the changes are made in Medicare policy.”

CAST and Study Results

This study supports a recent LeadingAge Aging Services Technology Issue Brief, which holds that telemedicine can help long-term and post-acute care providers deliver integrated and person-centered care, supporting older adults’ health. These technologies are essential to strategic partnerships with physicians, hospitals, Accountable Care Organizations, and other coordinated care delivery models that will improve the quality of life and care, while easing care burdens and cost.
 
CAST's technology policy priorities, set at the March 2014 CAST Commissioners Meeting, include advocating with agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including CMS and its Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, for more demonstration projects focusing on health IT and telehealth.
 
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute supported the recent study.