Telemedicine continues to expand its scope by connecting patients with specialists across the United States by offering a treatment solution for more chronic diseases. A new program titled “Clinicians’ Online Neurology Network Empowering Communities through Telemedicine – Multiple Sclerosis (CONNECT-MS)” will follow MS patients throughout a one year pilot program to determine if telemedicine could be a benefit to patients with MS.
Participants of this pilot program will randomly be assigned to one of two groups – the telemedicine intervention group and a control group that is offered the usual care. The intervention group will receive consultations through a HIPAA-protected telemedicine visit. A nurse practitioner will visit each patient in their home within three to four weeks after the study has begun and coordinate a visit with the neuro-immunologist. The NP and the neuro-immunologist will review the patient’s medical history as well as perform the neurological examination and discuss laboratory results. Decisions about management with the patient and family will take place following the medical examination. Multiple variables will be studied throughout the pilot program, including: pain levels, bladder control, bowel control, mental health, and quality of life to determine if the telemedicine approach works as well as typical care.
In addition to the fact that telemedicine increases access to specialized care for those in rural areas, it would be especially beneficial to patients with MS who, over time, can find it extremely difficult to leave their homes and make it into doctor’s offices. MS affects nearly 400,000 people in the United States and 2.3 million people worldwide – if the pilot program proves successful this could greatly increase access to healthcare for MS patients.