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The NSPA Blog

Telemedicine: A New Way to Save Patients Time and Provide Care

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Posted on January 11th, 2017 by Teri Dreher, under Something New, Telehealth/Telemedicine

Like countless other patients, Ann Johnson, a retired veterinarian, has been willing to travel long distances and devote an entire day to be treated by a specialist at Rush University Medical Center. But a recent appointment lasted less than 30 minutes, and the only travel she did was to her living room. Nine years ago, Johnson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Johnson and a family member would drive regularly more than 130 miles from Champaign to be treated by Christopher Goetz, MD., a leading expert on movement disorders and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Rush. Then, in 2016, she began participating in a telemedicine pilot project that would allow about ever other of her visits to be conducted via secure, live-streaming video from her home.

The potential of telemedicine-the delivery of health services using communication technologies such as telephone or the Internet-has been discussed for years, but improved technology and lower broadband costs are making that promise very real for patients like Johnson. Diagnosing and monitoring the progression of Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders is based almost entirely on visual observation, because there are no blood tests or brain scans to confirm the diagnosis. Rush helped establish and test the visual criteria used to diagnose Parkinson’s and other similar movement disorders decades ago and has been using video technology for many years during patient visits to track progression of the disease. Since the project began in October 2016, more than 20 patients in the pilot program have been using their own computers to link to Rush for virtual face-to-face meetings with their neurologists. So far, Goetz and neurologist Katie Kompoliti, MD have been using this approach.

To date, patients have provided consistently positive feedback. Instead of signing in when they arrive at the neurology department lobby, they log into MyChart, Rush’s online health record system, and use it to open a secure video feed using a standard webcam. The neurologists asks their patients to perform the same movements and answer the same questions they would have in a typical appointment. Currently, Rush is not charging patients for these appointments, because insurance doesn’t cover them. It is hoped that Illinois will join approximately half of the states that currently require private insurers to cover telehealth the same as in-person services. Rush as other several telemedicine pilot projects underway where telemedicine can likely have the most patient impact. It is only a matter of time till the laws catch up with technology.

Do you believe that telemedicine is the wave of the future in medicine? Would you participate in a pilot program if your physician asked you to do so?

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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