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Princess Alexandra Hospital has become the first public hospital in Australia to launch a remote monitoring and intervention program for neurology patients who have already had Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery to manage tremors.
The technology means that patients with conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, essential tremor, dystonia or functional movement disorders who have already benefited from a Deep Brain Stimulation implant in their brain, can now have modifications to their device to control their symptoms from anywhere in the world via a virtual appointment as their condition changes over time.
PA Hospital Neurologist, Dr Alexander Lehn said this new technology, NeuroSphere, launched in November will make a massive difference for patients with neurological disorders but particularly those patients who live far away from specialist centres or who are not interacting in the community due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It will enable our DBS patients to get the best care at any time, from anywhere, without having to wait for a scheduled appointment or come all the way into clinic,” said Dr Lehn.
“Being able to manage conditions with symptoms that constantly change was not possible before remote monitoring and I truly think this will change how we deliver care and how symptoms can be managed with frequent online review via virtual clinic.
“At the moment, these patients come in twice a year for assessment which is a significant burden on them, particularly if they are coming from a rural or remote location. Finetuning each individual implant via virtual clinic gives them quick and responsive access, removing travel and parking costs as well as our ability to innovate clinic schedules to reduce impact on the hospital system,” he said.
56-year-old father of two from Shailer Park, James Rae, is amongst the first PA Hospital patients with Parkinson’s Disease to switch over to remote monitoring and is excited about the potential of managing adjustments from home after receiving his implant in March this year.
“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2019 and I have had good days and bad days with a tremor affecting my left side.”
Like most patients living with Parkinson’s, James says it is the everyday things that become impossible to do with a tremor that make life hard and thinking about it is a trigger which makes symptoms worse.
“Having the DBS operation made a huge difference to my symptoms – I can now use a fork and carry a cup of coffee without spilling it all over me. Some days are bad days which make it hard to relax so it sets me off more,” the retired Protective Services Officer said.
He said making adjustments or just getting support by phone will certainly make life easier. “This new technology will save me from travelling into the hospital and knowing I can access the virtual clinic by phone when I’m having a bad day, or if I’m travelling away from home is a real bonus.”
Nurse Navigator for Parkinson’s Disease, Anna Nolan runs the nurse-led clinic from PA Hospital once a week and a twice-weekly clinic from Gundu Pa in Wynnum and said they are working through the 200 PA Hospital patients who have received the latest DBS technology since 2016 to program their remote functionality.
“Many of our patients are over 65 so they are more vulnerable and being able to manage their symptoms remotely via virtual clinic will decrease their risk but certainly it will offer them more agile and responsive treatment options as well,” she said.