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URMC Telemedicine Program Aims to Extend Parkinson’s Care Across NYS

June 16, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A new program launched by neurologists at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) will aim to expand access to care across New York State.

The Parkinson’s Disease Care, New York (PDCNY) program will be a largely virtual network providing free care to as many as 500 underserved patients across New York State. Participants in the PDCNY program will interact via a secure web-based teleconferencing system with Parkinson’s disease specialists at URMC.  There will be no charge for these virtual house calls.

According to officials, physicians and nurses at URMC will develop and regularly reevaluate coordinated care plans for each patient, including referrals to speech, occupational, and physical therapists, mental health providers, social workers, and home health providers, if warranted. The program is supported with grants from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation.

What’s more, participants with iPhones will be able to use the mPower app developed by URMC and Sage Bionetworks to track and share information about their symptoms with their physicians.  The app, initially designed as a research study using Apple’s ResearchKit, uses sensors in the iPhone to measure dexterity, voice fluctuations, balance and gait, and memory. Now using CareKit, the latest software framework designed by Apple, is able to better inform patients and providers about their symptoms and care.

URMC officials note that Parkinson’s disease lends itself to telemedicine because many aspects of the treatment of the disease are visual and only require the physician to observe the patient performing certain tasks such as repeatedly tapping their fingers together, walking, and describing their symptoms.   These exchanges can be conducted just as effectively via telemedicine as they can in a doctor’s office and allow physicians to monitor the progression of the disease, manage and adjust medications accordingly, and refer the patient to other specialists, therapists, and support services.

“Providing coordinated, ongoing care to Parkinson’s patients in the traditional settings of a doctor’s office requires these individuals and their caregivers and families to travel, often long distances, and is expensive for payers and patients alike,” URMC neurologist Kevin Biglan, M.D., the director of the PDCNY program, said in a statement. “The PDCNY program will break down the barriers of geography and deliver care directly to patients who have never seen a specialist and in the comfort of their own homes.”

The PDCNY program will provide care to 500 patients, approximately 400 of whom will reside in the nine-county Greater Rochester area.  An estimated 7,000 individuals with Parkinson’s in the Rochester area have not seen a specialist in the last 5 years, according to officials.

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