4 posts tagged “telemedicine”

“Breaking up” with a doctor after 14 years — Bernadette’s journey to better care

Posted 3 weeks ago by

PatientsLikeMe member Bernadette (yellsea), who’s on the 2018 Team of Advisors, has been living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) since 2002. She recently filled us in about switching specialists after more than a decade with the same neurologist, and advocating for herself after enough “red flags” popped up in her interactions with that physician.

Out with the old

Bernadette lives in remote area in the Great Lakes Region of New York. The first PD symptom she noticed was her handwriting getting small (a common early symptom of PD known as micrographia) — and her first doctor dismissed it as “writer’s cramp.”

When she began having tremors in her hand, she started seeing a neurologist with a strong reputation in Syracuse, about a 40 minute drive from her home.

“He’s very well-respected in the area,” she says. “In fact, a lot of the [other] doctors won’t step on his toes.”

Bernadette was experiencing serious side effects with some of her PD medications — including compulsive gambling out of the blue (a reported side effect of Mirapex) — but her neurologist asked her very few questions about how she was feeling, and never raised the topic of side effects.

“My husband didn’t like him,” Bernadette says of her old doctor. “I didn’t know any better. There were cues I should’ve picked up on long before the 14 years.”

Bernadette got a taste of other Parkinson’s care when she enrolled in PD telemedicine trials at the University of Rochester (U of R), where the staff is “amazing,” she says.

Bernadette says she was experiencing terrible dyskinesia, and a U of R neurologist mentioned that one of her treatments might be a factor (but didn’t suggest altering her treatment without consulting her doc).

She stopped taking the medication without telling her usual neurologist in advance. (“That was my one mistake,” she notes.) But she noticed a major drop in dyskinesia.

“When I told him I didn’t take [the drug] anymore — and why I didn’t take it anymore —he came unglued,” Bernadette says. “Nobody intimidates this little girl, but I was almost in tears.”

In with the new

Fortunately, Bernadette’s husband, Mark, attends doctor’s appointments with her and calmly stepped in when the doctor flipped out.

“Mark said, ‘You’re not going back there,’ and I said, ‘No, I gotta find another doctor,” she says.

After about a month, she landed a new neurologist at U of R. Although Rochester is about an hour and 15 minutes away, the change has been well worth it and the transition was “seamless” in terms of paperwork and insurance, Bernadette says. (Other patients aren’t always so fortunate, when it comes to insurance coverage — see one example here.)

Her new physician is a younger doctor who’s a movement disorder specialist (focused on PD), rather than a general neurologist (treating a wide range of neurological disorders).

“I was leery” at first, Bernadette says. “She wasn’t that old. She wasn’t out of school that long. My husband said, ‘No—take her! She’s young! She’s got fresh ideas!’ I never looked at it that way.”

These days, Bernadette’s doctor visits are pleasant from start to finish, she says, because the entire office staff is friendly and she has more of a dialogue with her doctor. She isn’t afraid to ask questions or discuss her symptoms and side effects.

“She knows what questions to ask someone with Parkinson’s,” Bernadette says of her new doc. “I tell everyone [with PD] that they need to go to a motion specialist.”

Bernadette continues to stay on top of PD research by reading books and articles (which she advises all patients to do), and no longer feels intimidated about raising new ideas, whether in-person or over the online patient portal (something her old doctor didn’t offer).

“I tell people, you have to do it yourself — you have to be an advocate for yourself,” Bernadette says.

Not every doctor and patient will click, she says, especially with such a varied disease as PD (sometimes called a “snowflake disease” because it can affect people so differently).

“You gotta go with your gut. I might like German shepherds and you might like chihuahuas — and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she says. “It’s a personal thing.”

Bernadette — an upbeat jokester — likes how her new doctor can roll with her sense of humor, but also knows when to take her seriously.

“I can be me,” she says.

How’s your relationship with your doctor? Have you ever noticed “red flags” in your care or had to change doctors? Join PatientsLikeMe today to jump into this conversation in the forum. Also, check out our Good Care Checklist, which PatientsLikeMe developed based on recent research with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on “good health care” from the patient perspective.

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Dr. Rick Bedlack weighs in on telemedicine

Posted 2 months ago by

Do you have difficulty getting to your doctor’s appointments? Ever thought about using telemedicine? Connecting online can make it easier to get the care you need. Here, Dr. Rick Bedlack (a tenured associate professor of Medicine/Neurology at Duke University and the director of the Duke ALS Clinic that’s partnering with PatientsLikeMe in the current Lunasin study) explains the basics of telemedicine, his “Tele-ALS” program and how telemedicine could improve patient clinical trial experiences in the future.

Telemedicine 101: How does it work?

“Telemedicine” connects patients and their doctors through secure video conferencing programs (similar to “FaceTime”). Both parties need to have a computer, tablet or smartphone, and a video conferencing program that has been approved for use by the doctor’s institution. I have been offering this type of care to patients with ALS for several years now, through separate “Tele-ALS” programs at the Durham VA Medical Center (VAMC) and Duke University.

The pros of telemedicine

  • No travel: The main benefit of Tele-ALS is that it allows patients with ALS who live in rural areas to continue to connect with their ALS specialist throughout their disease, even when travel becomes difficult or impossible.
  • Symptoms management: This connection facilitates expert identification and management of the many modifiable symptoms patients with ALS experience throughout their illness, such as drooling, thick secretions, excessive laughing and crying, cramps, spasticity, pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and constipation.
  • Tech troubleshooting: It also facilitates identification and triage of equipment problems such as malfunctions in speech generating devices or power wheelchairs.
  • Keeping patients in the know: I have personally found it to be very useful in keeping patients informed about exciting research and alternative options and in this manner helping them stay hopeful throughout their illness.
  • More accessible clinical trials: In the next year, I will pilot the first ever totally virtual ALS clinical trial. Instead of making “in person” study visits, this trial will conduct all required visits via Tele-ALS. This should make participation much simpler and more attractive for patients and families.

The cons

There are some down sides to Tele-ALS…

  • From a patient’s perspective, many have told me they miss coming in and meeting in person with all the members of my team. Not all patients have a computer, tablet or smartphone, or Internet access.
  • From my perspective, I miss not being able to perform a detailed neurological exam. Given this limitation, I would not offer Tele-ALS to a patient I had never seen before —only to those whom I have already examined and confirmed the diagnosis in person.
  • From an administrator’s perspective, there currently is no way to bill for a typical Tele-ALS visit. This is the main reason that more clinics are not offering it. We are only able to offer it at Duke because of a generous grant from the North Carolina Chapter of ALSA.
  • Finally, there is a silly rule that prevents us from crossing state lines with this care model. The VAMC has found a way around this rule and VA providers can now offer telemedicine, including Tele-ALS, “anywhere to anywhere.” Hopefully non-VA hospitals will figure out how to do this soon.
telemedicine

telemedicine

Going forward

As we work out some of the problems with billing and crossing state lines, I think telemedicine and especially Tele-ALS clinics are going to become much more common. If my upcoming virtual research study shows good compliance and adherence, Tele-ALS will be increasingly used in trials to minimize participant burdens as well.

For more information:

www.telehealth.va.gov

www.dukealsclinic.com/telemedicine

Have you tried telemedicine? Why or why not? Join PatientsLikeMe and share your experience with the community.

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