Busting Myths About Digital Health Applications in Neurology

innovator spotlight with a headshot of dr. hemant pandey, chief physician at brain and spine center arizona

2020 was the year that COVID-19 forced digital health applications out of the box and catapulted the healthcare industry into the technology era. While the adoption of health tech is still fairly new for many providers, for others, it’s always been seen as a necessity for elevating the patient experience and delivering high quality patient care. 

Dr. Hemant Pandey, owner and head physician of Brain and Spine Center in Arizona, is one such tech-forward provider, who has been using texting and telehealth solutions for over two years now. He’s noticed limited adoption of technology in his specialty, so we recently sat down with him to challenge the misconception that digital health applications in neurology are limited, and discuss some of the digital health best practices that have worked well at his clinic.

Myth #1: Due to age and/or medical conditions, there is little to no engagement from neurology patients via text messaging. 

Fact: Dr. Pandey originally sought out a texting platform to harness the health data in his eClinicalWorks EHR and form a more effective bridge of connection to his patients. When he began using text messaging as a means for engagement, what he found was that, contrary to popular belief, his patient base actually took very well to texting as a channel of communication. 

He’s found that this has been especially true of older patients, aged 65 and up. Because they are more serious about their care, older patients are very receptive to adapting to and engaging with technology. They read the documents and educational literature that are sent via text. They show up to virtual appointments more prepared. Their medication adherence improves as they receive check-in messages between appointments. Going digital does not hinder their care, but in fact, makes it more accessible.   

The accessibility factor is even higher for patients with neurological conditions that affect memory. Engaging via text can be significantly more productive than engaging via phone, as the messages provide some documentation for what’s been discussed with the provider, compared to a phone call, in which the content can and likely will be forgotten shortly after hanging up.

“Most of our patients are older, a lot of them have dementia, they have Parkinson’s…so the natural instinct will be to presume that they’re not very tech savvy, but you will actually be surprised.”

Myth #2: Appointments for patients with neurological conditions are best done in person; virtual care just doesn’t work.

Fact: From a neurological perspective, while there are certainly still elements of an exam that are best done in person–like looking closely at a patient’s eyes for nystagmus or watching a patient’s gait and balance–there are many cases in which telehealth can actually be a more advantageous option. 

Dr. Pandey has been using telehealth for about two years now, and he’s noticed how it has improved the care experience for his patients. The option for virtual care enables patients to be seen from their homes, where they are comfortable and can remain calm and at ease. It also helps with accessibility for patients who are in wheelchairs or use walkers, as they can now avoid the time and hassle of transit to an in-person appointment. His patients are noticeably happier being seen virtually. 

Additionally, seeing patients via telehealth has also given Dr. Pandey a window into his patients’ home lives, which has enabled him to provide higher quality care. For example, in a telehealth visit, he had seen a patient with collections of documents piling up in the kitchen, and that indicated that the patient’s dementia had worsened to a point where he was likely not able to live by himself anymore. Given the look into the home environment, Dr. Pandey has a more holistic view of a patient’s life outside what he’s told in the office and can make a better assessment of their health status. 

If you are looking for a telehealth solution for your neurology clinic, Dr. Pandey recommends using digital health applications that enable multiple participants in a session so that relevant family members and caretakers can be online with patients as well. Additionally, he advises having the capability to record visits if possible so that patients can later review what was discussed in the appointment if necessary.

If you’re looking to improve your telehealth offering, this on-demand webinar shares some best practices.

Myth #3: Technology takes away from the personal element of high quality care. 

Technology mechanizes a lot of the manual work for providers, so does that mean it takes away the personal touch of providing care? Many providers, including Dr. Pandey, find the opposite to be true. 

Because technology eliminates many administrative tasks and can streamline many of a clinic’s workflows, providers are finding that they actually have far more meaningful time to spend with patients during appointments.

From pre-filled screening forms and automated text reminders to televisits and between-appointment patient education, there are multiple touchpoints in a patient’s care journey where technology can be implemented to gather more information about a patient. This ultimately enhances the quality of patient care because a provider can now spend the duration of an appointment focused on addressing the patient’s needs and concerns straight away. 

Dr. Pandey has noticed this with his own appointments, sharing that “visits are now quicker because everything is very detailed and very focused. You get down to the brass tacks right away and address what’s going on. What I’m able to typically do in 30 minutes, I can now do that very quickly in 20 minutes or less, and the patients feel comfortable; they don’t feel rushed.” 

This comfort and ease of care access for patients is especially important at a neurology practice, where many patients can be suffering from conditions that make them easily irritable or upset when surroundings or situations feel foreign and unfamiliar.  

Automating your neurology practice’s workflows with the help of technology, will not only save a significant amount of staff time from manual administrative tasks; it will also enable you and your staff to re-allocate time to more meaningful patient engagement and a higher quality experience.

What digital health applications have you seen in neurology? Has the COVID-19 pandemic challenged you to explore more of them? We’d love to chat and exchange ideas about what innovation has worked and what could be better!

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