Virtual doc visits suffice for many with neurological disorders

If you have a neurological disorder, a video chat with your doctor might be as good as an office visit for checking on your condition.

That's the conclusion of researchers who analysed 101 studies on telemedicine use for concussion, traumatic brain injury, dementia, epilepsy, headache, multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, neuromuscular conditions and general neurology.

As effective as in-person visits

In telemedicine, video conferencing or other technology is used to connect patients and doctors who are in different locations. The patient could be at home or at a local doctor's office.

Overall, the review found that patients and their doctors were as satisfied with virtual visits as with in-person visits.

Some of the studies showed that telemedicine is as effective as in-person visits to make accurate diagnoses, and in some cases it improved health outcomes.

The findings were published online in the journal Neurology.

"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," said review lead author Dr Jaime Hatcher-Martin, with the company SOC Telemed.

Just the beginning

"Another effective use may be for evaluating people with possible concussions, where telemedicine could be used on-site to make an immediate diagnosis. For sports injuries, it could be used to make a decision on whether the athlete is ready to return to the field," Hatcher-Martin said in a journal news release.

According to review senior author Dr Raghav Govindarajan, "This is just the beginning of evaluating the benefits of telemedicine in neurology." Govindarajan is from the University of Missouri.

"We need to conduct further studies to better understand when virtual appointments are a good option for a patient," Govindarajan said. "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."

Image credit: iStock

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