Multiple Sclerosis (MS) clinicians face challenges in optimizing neurological care especially for people with advanced MS living in medically underserved communities according to Elizabeth Morrison-Banks M.D., a Health Sciences Clinical Professor, School of Medicine at the University of California Riverside https://medschool.ucr.edu.
The original one year pilot telemedicine project conducted from 2015-2016 was titled “Clinicians Online Neurology Network Empowering Communities through Telemedicine-Multiple Sclerosis” (CONNECT-MS). The pilot was funded by a Genentech www.gene.com research grant and developed in collaboration with the Landon Pediatric Foundation www.landonpediatricfoundation.org.
As Morrison-Banks explains, “After this project was conducted, our preliminary data suggested that telemedicine is effective for and acceptable to patients with MS. However, our outreach was limited by the complexity of scheduling visits to the general neurologists’ offices in coordination with conducting simultaneous telemedicine consultations.”
“Therefore, a new home-based telemedicine program was proposed and as a result, Morrison-Banks recently received a $100,000 grant from Genentech to develop and pilot test the new CONNECT-MS new home-based telemedicine program to help treat MS patients.
The Genentech funded home-based telemedicine program will enable the Morrison-Banks research team to randomly assign participating adults with MS to an intervention group to receive telemedicine intervention versus a control group that will be offered the usual care.
For the intervention group, a nurse practitioner will visit patients in their homes, review the history, and perform a neurological examination in collaboration with a neuro-immunologist at UC Riverside who will participate through a telemedicine connection.
The CONNECT-MS project’s nurse practitioner will visit each patient at home within three to four weeks after study enrollment to coordinate a telemedicine visit with Morrison-Banks. Together, the nurse practitioner and neuro-immunologist will conduct an intake visit, review the patient’s history, perform a neurological examination, and go over laboratory results and neuro-imaging before discussing decisions about work-up and management with the patient and family.
According to Morrison-Banks, “This new pilot study may not be able to show whether MS telemedicine used in patients’ homes is better than usual care, but if it appears to be equivalent and if patients and families like it better because of convenience, then the pilot study will provide useful preliminary data to guide larger research studies in the future.”