Parkinson’s Patients Have Positive Attitudes About Telemedicine During Pandemic, Survey Reveals

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by Marisa Wexler |

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Most people with Parkinson’s disease have positive attitudes about telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, a small Japanese study reveals.

The study, “Attitudes towards telemedicine of patients with Parkinson’s disease during the COVID‐19 pandemic,” was published in Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience. It was funded by Nipro Corporation.

Traditionally, doctors appointments are done in-person. However, technological advancements have paved the way for telemedicine — visits conducted via telephone or video call.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine’s use has increased dramatically because in-person visits increase the risk of disease transmission. In Japan, policy changes that took affect in April made telemedicine more accessible — accommodating telemedicine visits even for a first appointment, for example, and allowing doctors to prescribe medications without in-person visits.

“This raises the question of whether the same medical care system as before should be maintained during and after the COVID-19 pandemic for treatment of chronic diseases such as [Parkinson’s],” the researchers wrote.

The researchers surveyed 103 people with Parkinson’s who had in-person visits at Fukuoka University Hospital in April or early May. The surveyed patients included 42 men and 61 women; most people in the group were in their 60s or 70s (average age 67.21 years).

The patients were asked about their attitudes regarding telemedicine — that is, whether they were interested in switching to telemedicine visits from in-person visits — as well as demographic characteristics.

Twenty patients (19%) reported that getting to the hospital for a physical visit took more than an hour, and 36 reported (34%) that round-trip transportation costs to get to the hospital were more than 1,000 yen (about $10). Additionally, 40 patients (40%) were credit card users, and 79 patients (79%) or their family were smartphone users.

Most patients (79 of 103, 77%) were aware of telemedicine’s availability, and the majority (62 of 103, 60%) expressed interest in switching to telemedicine visits.

Statistical analyses showed that people who lived far away from the hospital were significantly more likely to have a positive attitude toward telemedicine. Those who reported using credit cards or smart phones also were significantly more likely to express interest in switching to telemedicine.

“The present study showed inexperience using credit cards and smartphones might be an obstacle to telemedicine,” the researchers wrote.

“Easy-to-use devices for [Parkinson’s] patients should be provided to promote” the practice, they added.

The researchers noted that this was a fairly small study conducted at a single institution, so the results might not be reflective of all people with Parkinson’s. Further research will be needed to better understand patient attitudes toward  telemedicine, and to find ways to make it more accessible.

“It is time to examine the possibility of using [telemedicine] more in future [Parkinson’s] medical care,” the investigators concluded.

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