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Friday, March 24, 2017

Pilot Study May Lead to Telemedicine Benefiting People with Multiple Sclerosis


                                                                  
  
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Telemedicine, which allows healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance with telecommunications technology, may soon benefit people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, MD, a health sciences clinical professor at the University of California at Riversi1de School of Medicine, is planning a pilot one-year study of a home-based telemedicine program for MS patients.
A $100,000 grant from Genentech is financing the project, which Morrison-Banks calls “Clinicians’ Online Neurology Network Empowering Communities through Telemedicine – Multiple Sclerosis (CONNECT-MS).”
“In 2015-2016, in collaboration with the Landon Pediatric Foundation, our research group developed a pilot telemedicine program for MS care funded by a Genentech research grant,” Morrison-Banks said in a news release. “While our preliminary data suggested that telemedicine is effective for and acceptable to patients with MS, outreach was limited by the complexity of scheduling visits to the general neurologists’ offices in coordination with simultaneous telemedicine consultations. We are therefore proposing a new home-based telemedicine program.”
As part of the project, Morrison-Banks and colleagues will randomize adults with MS to receive either telemedicine-based care or usual care.
A nurse practitioner will visit the telemedicine group’s homes, review their clinical history, and work with a neuro-immunologist who is on a telemedicine hook-up to perform a neurological analysis. The first stop at a patient’s home will be three to four weeks after the patient enrolls so the nurse can coordinate a telemedicine visit with Morrison-Banks. The privacy of such visits will be protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Researchers will compare the health of patients treated by telemedicine with those who received usual care. The variables they will examine include pain levels, fatigue, quality of life, visual impairment, sexual satisfaction, bowel control, bladder control, and mental health.
“The goal is to determine whether the home telemedicine approach works as well as usual care—that is, office visits with the neuro-immunologist,” Morrison-Banks said. “This is a pilot study and it may not be able to show whether MS telemedicine in patients’ homes is better than usual care, but if it appears to be equivalent – and if patients and families like it better because of its convenience and comfort – then the pilot study will provide useful preliminary data to guide larger research studies in the future.”

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