Parkinson's and Telemedicine: What I learned at the Merinoff Symposium

By Gary Chard, PAN Delaware State Director

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate with advocacy and research leaders to discuss and define “telemedicine,” and see these leaders begin to structure a framework for how the Parkinson’s community can better access telemedicine. 

This all took place at the 2013 Merinoff Symposium:  Leveraging Telemedicine to Deliver the Highest Quality of Care to All Parkinson’s Patients.   Held at the Feinstein Institute of Health Services in Garden City, NY, this symposium convened more than two hundred people from the medical, scientific, technology, advocacy, and patient fields – all of whom shared their thoughts, ideas, current and proposed programs, obstacles, and proposed solutions in person and via videoconference with the goal of helping shape and define concepts and practices into a model that is workable and rewarding to the patient and provider alike.  The article about telemedicine in PAN’s March newsletter provided helpful background on what telemedicine is and why it’s important to the Parkinson’s community.

Symposium attendees listened to and participated in panel discussions about a wide variety of issues surrounding telemedicine and the Parkinson’s community.   Attendees agreed that telemedicine is not a cure, not a replacement, nor a panacea for traditional doctor-patient interaction.  Rather, it is a growing, viable communications access alternative.  There is potential for telemedicine to serve the Parkinson’s community by providing greater access to specialized care from a neurologist or movement disorders specialist. 

What's next?  The Symposium concluded with members from the American Telemedicine Association, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, National Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Parkinson's Action Network, and medical professionals committing to reconvene later in the year to further the discussion and identify how to best expand access.  For its part, PAN promised to evaluate issues around Medicare reimbursement, private insurance hurdles, and the challenge of physician licensure across state lines.

I was totally impressed with the fortitude this group has demonstrated to tackle this project head-on.

What can I do?  As a PAN State Director, when the time is right for a policy push in Washington to change some rules to increase access, I plan to reach out to my community to enlist their help in educating our lawmakers about why this is so necessary.  While people with Parkinson’s have hope for a cure, I see telemedicine as a necessary application of already-existing technology to solve an obvious problem -- bringing proper medical services and patient care to the most in-need patients in a most affordable way. 

How can you help?  Stay educated on the issue of telemedicine.  Read PAN’s newsletter article about telemedicine, or read this NPR news story about Johns Hopkins neurologist Dr. Ray Dorsey, who sees many of his patients via telemedicine.   And, sign up for PAN’s Action Alerts, so that when it’s time to educate our Members of Congress, we can do so in a coordinated, impactful way. 

Telemedicine can help thousands of people with Parkinson’s who have no other way to see a neurologist or movement disorders specialist.  I look forward to helping change some laws and guidelines that will help expand access to those who need it most.

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Date originally posted: April 24, 2013.