Telemedicine and MS

As someone who doesn’t drive, and whose MS fatigue, facial and eye pains often limit my leaving the house to travel to hospital, I’ve always felt that neurological telemedicine would be a wonderful alternative.

With a new neuro check-up coming up next month, the thought of traveling to hospital on public transport filled with loud teenage kids already sets of anxiety and dread. It is enough to make me want to cancel my appointment.

Depending on the type of MS, we all know how important medical check-ups are. So, I grin and bear the noise and arrive home five hours later reduced to pieces by fatigue and in agonizing pain. This is where I wish Star Trek-type healing could help. Fast. As in, right now.

In today’s world of smart TVs, smartphones, and lots of other smart ways of living, I’ve become rather interested in whether ‘smart’ healthcare would be a viable alternative for people living with MS and other chronic illnesses.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be called “smart” to be smart. Telemedicine has been around for a few decades already. It might not really resemble healthcare in a virtual reality or Xbox-style, but it’s a good starting point as aims to help people live in a healthier way. It’s a rapidly growing business as the internet, software and devices become ever more intelligent, accessible and easier to use.

Depending on the setup of your healthcare provider, a telemedicine doctor or remote patient monitoring system can relay information to other healthcare agencies for their analysis. Web camera based technology can also bring clinical services such as routine consultations into homes, allowing people to speak freely from the comfort of their own armchair!

Being able to schedule follow-up visits or rehab, symptom and medicine management, specialist consultations and chronic disease management via secure connections can only be a good thing for those living with MS and other illnesses where mobility issues, for example, are limiting their ability to travel to the hospital.

This is where I think, “Boom! Kerching! Just what I am looking for!” I gladly scour Google and test different apps and websites to see what their potential is.

Some of the benefits of telemedicine for people with MS are:

  • Ideal for people who are housebound or can’t take time off work
  • Ideal for people with mobility issues, fatigue, chronic pain and other debilitating symptoms
  • No need to ask for extra assistance to travel to hospital or physician’s location
  • No travel time and associated expenses
  • Because of its convenience, there’s a higher possibility of better adherence to follow-up appointments and care schedules
  • Less impact on family duties like elder or child-minding
  • Reduced exposure to infectious illnesses from others
  • Ideal for those living in remote locations
  • Affordability and accessibility to telemedicine tools and apps, i.e. mobile phones, laptops, tablets, PCs, Skype, FaceTime etc.

While there are some significant potential positives to telemedicines, as with everything there are some key drawbacks. One-to-one neurological patient-doctor visits will continue to be important and necessary in the life of someone with MS. Sensory, motor, reflex, coordination and cerebellar examinations are best done with the neurologist in his or her office. That said, for those times where I don’t need a full exam, I would gladly opt for telemedicine.

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