The Dawn of Telehealth
For a period of 11 weeks, between March 23 and June 9, 2020, Parkinson's New Zealand's team of nurses had to actively engage with our clients through video conferencing platforms or over the phone.
Face-to-face visits were temporarily out of the question, as our nation entered one of the swiftest and strictest lockdowns in the world.
Although New Zealand seems to have now emerged from the crisis, COVID-19 social distancing rules are quickly becoming the new standard.
However, doctor's visits and essential appointments cannot simply be deferred.
With the rise of telemedicine or telehealth, the use of technology to bring together treating teams and people with Parkinson's is more uncomplicated now more than ever.
What is Telehealth?
When electronic communication is made use of instead of an in-person healthcare visit, then that is termed telemedicine or telehealth.
Over the last few years, high-quality audio and video quality have helped create virtual medical appointments that very much mimic the real thing.
The level of technology can be mind-boggling, with remote stethoscopes allowing cardiologists to check your heart rate, while skin-care specialists can make use of high definition cameras.
Why is Telehealth useful for people with Parkinson's?
Neurologists often examine people with Parkinson's by assessing their speech, facial movement, upper and lower extremity movement, walking, and tremor.
Because of the primarily audio and visual nature of the movement disorder, an examination can be evaluated for telemedicine.
In fact, as part of the training of neurologists and other movement disorder specialists, trainees are often asked to watch videos of people with Parkinson's to identify symptoms quickly.
Things To Do
- Learn about the "platform" used for your upcoming telemedicine visit. This is also called the "software" or "system". (Zoom is a common platform used for telemedicine)
- Ask your doctor's office for a demonstration video (or find one online) to familiarise yourself with how it should work.
- Ask how you will "link" to the visit. This may involve clicking on a link in your email or text from your smartphone.
- Consider asking for a test appointment if you are worried you may not know how to connect at the time of your visit. This may reassure you that everything is ready or allow you to fix any minor issues on the day.
Preparing for the Meet
Keep your Parkinson's medications and schedule handy as you may be asked questions regarding them.
- Prepare a list of questions, concerns, or goals for a visit, so you're sure not to forget anything.
- Sit with room light or daylight from windows shining on your face. Try to avoid windows and bright light behind you.
- Remember to speak loudly although modern technology is very good at picking up voice at a distance!
- Have a hallway cleared and either aim the camera in that direction or have someone else hold the camera to show your treating team how you walk up and down.
It must be said that if there is one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the accelerated use of in-home telemedicine for medical care of Parkinson's.
The lockdown has encouraged doctors and patients who had never used telemedicine before to adopt it as a new tool to improve life for those with Parkinson's.