Telemedicine improves access for people with Parkinson’s
Almost every afternoon, Dr. Mark Guttman closes his office door at the Centre for Movement Disorders clinic in Markham and turns on the TV. The waiting room may be empty, but he still has patients to see – via the Ontario Telemedicine Network.
Dr. Guttman describes how it works: “The patient and family go to a local hospital and enter one of the videoconferencing suites. The coordinator at the other end, usually a nurse, helps with the evaluation and handles the equipment. I am in my office. I can see the patient and the patient can see me. We have a conversation. Then I ask the nurse when it’s time to help with the physical examination.”
Using the high-resolution camera, Dr. Guttman can zoom in for a close-up of the patient’s symptoms. He says, “In Parkinson’s, it’s important to watch somebody to observe their speed of movement, their muscle tone and how they’re walking.” Also on hand are the latest tele-diagnostic instruments, such as, digital stethoscopes and digital imaging facilities that transfer information to the doctor.
Videoconferencing is enabling people with Parkinson’s disease in Ontario’s remote communities to access neurologists, like Dr. Guttman, without the time and expense of travelling to larger urban centres. “Some people were driving from Thunder Bay to see me. That’s 14 hours each way for a follow-up assessment that lasts 20 minutes,” says Dr. Guttman. “Now they just go to the local hospital and it’s so much easier.”
Dr. Guttman sees about 12 patients a week or 500 a year, in this manner. Over 90% of these patients have expressed satisfaction with the care they have received. The program is so successful that Dr. Guttman is installing a second videoconferencing suite in his clinic.
Dr. Mark Guttman