Meeting the Challenges of Distance, Travel and Time in Parkinson’s Disease Care: Telehealth and Remote DBS Neurostimulation

Ramsey (Drew) Falconer, MD, is the Medical Director of the Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center. He is board certified in neurology and is a fellowship-trained movement disorders specialist. He also oversees several clinical trials in Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and movement disorders at the center.

Discover new technology that enables remote DBS programming during a telehealth visit: allowing for treatment anytime and anywhere.

Ten million people globally are living with Parkinson’s disease, with more than 1 million of those being in the United States. For many, a life-changing therapy called deep brain stimulation (DBS) has the potential to significantly improve their symptoms, yet only a fraction of the people who could benefit from DBS are getting it. The Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center is leading the charge to try to change that.

With a groundbreaking new technology called NeuroSphere,TM Inova is one of just a few hospitals in the U.S. – and the only one in the state of Virginia and the Washington, DC region – to offer a new remote neurostimulation technology that allows for the adjustment and programming of a DBS device remotely through a telehealth visit. No longer are distance, travel and time barriers to the highest level of Parkinson’s and movement disorders care.

Deep Brain Stimulation: What It Is and How It Works

DBS involves implanting a small set of electrodes into the brain, which are then programmed to send controlled electrical therapy into targeted brain regions, interrupting faulty brain signals that cause tremors and other symptoms. DBS can significantly reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia, and can allow for medication reduction. In patients whose symptoms aren’t well controlled by medication, DBS can be a life-changing therapy.

The device is programmable and adjustable, requiring a face-to-face meeting to tune the device’s parameters to find the best symptom control. Even before the pandemic heavily limited in-person clinic visits, the challenges of distance, travel and time were factors that weighed on the decision to move forward with DBS. In the U.S., patients travel an average of 150 miles to see specialists for DBS, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Many patients are not willing or able to go such a distance for frequent device adjustments. For those people, DBS has remained out of reach.

Challenges to Patient Access to DBS Treatment Solved by Remote Neuromodulation

To meet this challenge, Inova now offers a new technology called NeuroSphere™ Virtual Clinic, made by Abbott Laboratories. With this virtual tool, our movement disorder experts can adjust DBS settings remotely during video visits though an FDA-approved “app-like” interface built into the device’s wireless patient programmer. It functions much like a standard telehealth visit but with programming adjustments being made alongside the standard components of a telehealth visit.

NeuroSphere allows Inova’s Parkinson’s and movement disorders specialists to treat DBS patients anywhere, no matter where they live. And because the barrier of scheduling an in-person clinic has come down, we can often see patients more quickly, finding the optimal DBS settings faster. Then, if a person’s symptoms change, we can adjust the DBS sooner, all done in the comfort of the person’s own environment.

Inova was selected to be among the first hospitals to offer this new technology. To do so, our team draws on our deep expertise treating patients with Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders using DBS.

Telehealth and Digital Therapies for Parkinson’s disease: The future Is Now

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth took off in a big way. At Inova, we embraced using video visits to treat both new and existing patients with movement disorders. We have found virtual doctor’s appointments are effective and convenient, and we believe they are here to stay. Between our continued offerings of video visits and our NeuroSphere virtual DBS adjustments, we can make finding the path to a better life with Parkinson’s disease as easy and stress-free as possible. Distance and time are no longer hurdles to seeing our team of movement disorder specialists.

The Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center was designed with a mission of helping patients live better through cutting-edge therapy, medications and a dedicated team of specialists who will walk with patients every step of the way. DBS is a life-changing technology that has been safely used for 25 years. Now we’re able to offer it even more widely, with the comfort of knowing that we’re available to adjust the device anywhere, anytime.

To learn more about the Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center, click here. Telehealth appointments are available, as well as in-office appointments with clinic locations in the Washington, DC region and across Northern Virginia. Call 703-845-1500 for an appointment.

1 Comment

  1. David on June 13, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Dr Falconer would you like to make a presentation on the new DBS procedure to our Parkinsons Support Group here at Greenspring Retirements Group here in Springfield. We have over 150 Parkinson’s patients here now and 60+ attend our support meetings on a regular schedule. We could meet the end of July if interested. Have Sonja contact me if you are interested. David Anderson

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