An analysis of roughly 100 studies on the use of telemedicine for patients dealing with concussion and traumatic brain injury, dementia, epilepsy, headache, multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, neuromuscular conditions and general neurology finds that patients and their caregivers are just as satisfied with virtual care as with an in-person exam. The connected care platform also reduces the hassle of time and travel.
“Telemedicine can be especially helpful for people with epilepsy, who may not be able to drive to appointments, people with neurologic disorders like multiple sclerosis and movement disorders, who may have mobility issues that make getting to a clinic difficult, and, of course, for people in rural areas who may not be able to see a neurologist based hours away without making that trip,” Jaime Hatcher-Martin, MD, PhD, a member of the American Academy of Neurology who now works for the telehealth company SOC Telemed, said in an AAN press release.
Hatcher-Martin, who was with Atlanta’s Emory University and on the AAN’s Telemedicine Work Group when she led the study, published this month in Neurology, also said telehealth has potential in evaluating people – such as athletes – for concussions immediately after a concussive hit to the head, so as to make a decision whether that person could continue to participate in a sporting event.
But the analysis also notes that few studies have been conducted on the reliability of the platform in making an accurate diagnosis. Indeed, where concussions are concerned, some telehealth and mHealth treatments now available to providers and consumers, ranging from mHealth apps, tablets and robots to VR and AR platforms, note that the technology can help providers identify potential concussions, but an in-person examination is still needed for a diagnosis.
The analysis, which sidestepped telestroke services because evidence of the effectiveness of that technology has been well-documented, shines a light on the value of telehealth and mHealth as well as its current limits. While these platforms have proven their value in increasing access to care and reducing the burdens and costs associated with that access, there’s still a need to prove that they can provide an accurate diagnosis.
“This is just the beginning of evaluating the benefits of telemedicine in neurology,” Raghav Govindarajan, MD, of the University of Missouri, the study’s senior author, who served as a chair on the American Academy of Neurology’s Telemedicine Work Group and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, said in the press release.
“We need to conduct further studies to better understand when virtual appointments are a good option for a patient,” he added. “Keep in mind that telemedicine may not eliminate the need for people to meet with a neurologist in person. Rather, it is another tool that can help increase people’s access to care and also help lessen the burden of travel and costs for patients, providers and caregivers.”