New technology allows doctors at Rush to treat patients remotely

Telemedicine is taking the leap to the next level as new technologies enable doctors to see patients remotely and treat them as well.

It’s called the Neurosphere Virtual Clinic, developed by Abbott Labs and used at Rush University Medical Center.

With an iPad at Rush, a neurologist can adjust the implant in his patient’s brain even though she is miles away in the suburbs.

Leonard Verhagen, MD, PhD, director of the Movement Disorder Interventional Program and professor of neuroscience at Rush University Medical Center says, “I think this is a turning point.”

Think of the Neurosphere Virtual Clinic as a truly advanced app that doctors and patients can remotely connect to to manage movement disorders or chronic pain that is being treated with an implant in their brain or spinal cord.

We watched Tricia O’neill, a Parkinson’s patient, shake her arms in her Hinsdale home.

Back in Rush, Dr. Verhagen placed an implant in O’Neill’s brain called deep brain stimulation, and the tremors subsided.

Prior to this climb, O’Neill would have had to go to Rush every few months and take half a day off for these adjustments.

“Now if I need to adjust my customizations, I just dial in, it’s like telemedicine and I can even do it from my office in 15 minutes,” said O’Neill.

Dr. Binneth Cheeran, Abbott’s director of medical affairs, says, “It’s a telemedicine solution, but it goes beyond telemedicine.”

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Dr. Cheeran says this technology, developed in Abbott Labs, is the next step as it allows clinicians to remotely talk to and treat their patients.

“It is truly a unique technology and of tremendous importance to people with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and chronic pain conditions, and there are tens of millions of Americans with these conditions today,” said Cheeran.

Dr. Verhagen has used deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s for years, with patients braving the infamous Chicago traffic while traveling hundreds of miles for specialized care.

“They don’t mind if they come maybe once or twice and maybe have the operation done here, but when they know it can go on and be remotely programmed at home, that’s really a big step forward I think, “said Verhagen.

It is probably the first step in many leaps for health technology.

“Healthcare is still a little bit analog and we need to make it a little bit more digital to fit better into our modern life,” said Dr. Cheeran.

But the future is uncertain.

Telemedicine, including this technology, is currently insured in Illinois under an emergency pandemic ordinance. That is running out soon, and Springfield lawmakers continue to debate making telehealth coverage permanent when the state reopens.

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