Acceptance of 'Teleneurology' by Patients Is High

telemedicine, telehealth
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Key Takeaways

  • Telemedicine may help relieve a chronic shortage of neurologists, researchers say

  • Patients who saw a neurologist via video were overwhelmingly satisfied with the experience

  • The study leader says most of the work she and other neurologists do can easily be done via video

FRIDAY, July 5, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- You might have thought that telemedicine is suitable only for conditions like COVID or a stomach bug.

But a groundbreaking study has found video doctor visits highly acceptable for patients with a wide variety of neurological diagnoses, from headaches to movement disorders like Parkinson's disease.

In fact, the more complex the case -- meaning a patient had more than one medical condition -- the more satisfied patients were with their video visit.

"For most patients, a large portion of what we're trying to do -- understanding the patients' symptoms, when they started, what helps then and what makes their symptoms worse -- all those basics that we learn in medical school that we know are at least 75 percent of getting the right diagnosis can be done by video," said senior study author Dr. Linda Williams, a neurologist whose practice focuses on stroke patients. "This is true no matter the healthcare system."

Williams, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Regenstrief Institute research scientist, said telehealth is simply more efficient than an in-person visit. 

"It may help us make better use of scarce resources when we have physician shortages and, most importantly, it may help us meet patients where they are at home, when they're having trouble or can't drive from perhaps conditions like epilepsy, which are very important in neurology," she said in a Regenstrief news release.

And age appears to be no barrier. Older patients in this study were as accepting of teleneurology as their younger counterparts. 

Researchers also found no link between living in a rural area and acceptability. Neurologists are in short supply across the country, Williams pointed out, and like any specialist, they tend to be scarce in rural areas.

"Teleneurology is one way that care can be more efficient," she said. "We can see many more patients in a given day via telehealth compared to driving to a single remote clinic and so can spread a scarce resource."

The study -- recently published in the Journal of Neurology -- included more than 630 patients whose medical issues ranged from headaches to disorders such as tremors, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

They were surveyed two weeks after having video visits with neurologists at home or at an outpatient primary care clinic.

More than half of the respondents had no access to a local neurologist. Headache was among the most prevalent neurological issue.

"Compared to many neurological conditions, headache diagnosis and treatment are less dependent on ongoing physical exams," the authors wrote. "Thus, telemedicine may be especially well-sited for the evaluation and management of patients with various types of headaches."

First author Courtney Siegel, a student at Indiana University School of Medicine, noted that older people and those with more complex issues comprise a large portion of patients requiring care by a neurologist.

"These findings will help healthcare providers realize they should not exclude consideration of teleneurology for patients that fall into these groups," she said.

More information

There's more about the benefits of telemedicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

SOURCE: Regenstrief Institute, news release, June 24, 2024

What This Means For You

Telehealth can help you get needed care for neurological issues, ranging from headaches to Parkinson's and dementia.

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