Telehealth may not be a new idea, but it is the new normal. While some people with epilepsy may already be familiar with virtual office visits, it’s important to make the most of your care via telehealth and to understand how the shift specifically affects people with epilepsy.
We spoke with a neurologist from one of the top-rated epilepsy centers in the U.S. for more information about telemedicine and epilepsy care.
Telehealth for people with epilepsy
According to Jennifer Avallone, D.O., a neurologist at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, some epilepsy patients were already well served by virtual health care, even before COVID-19.
“At times, people with uncontrolled epilepsy are restricted from driving, and telehealth appointments allow them to discuss management with their physicians from home,” said Avallone. “Additionally, telehealth appointments allow patients to stay at home comfortably without transporting medical equipment such as oxygen tanks and wheelchairs.”
The takeaway is that you shouldn’t feel like telehealth is second best, or that it’s less comprehensive than in-person care. Some people with epilepsy have been embracing the telehealth approach for some time now, and many epilepsy centers are already well-equipped to deliver top-notch care by way of virtual office visits. Additionally, telehealth may provide an opportunity to consult with specialists anywhere in the country.
Telehealth safety protocols
As hospitals navigate care during a pandemic, protocols can range from fully virtual appointments via video conference to a socially distanced in-person office visit with some special rules and precautions.
According to Avallone, Johns Hopkins transitioned neurology appointments completely to telehealth during their area’s stay-at-home order. As restrictions were lifted, measures were put in place to deliver safe in-person outpatient office visits using social distancing, with staggered appointment times to avoid people congregating in waiting rooms.
“For epilepsy patients, we transitioned neurodiagnostic testing with EEG to the outpatient setting or at-home ambulatory EEG tests,” said Avallone. “For epilepsy patients who needed emergency admissions, visitors were limited to one.”
Even if you’ve received telehealth care in the past, it’s a good idea to check with your provider to be prepared for the latest protocols.
How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit
• Draft a list of questions to discuss during the appointment. Consider providing video recordings of seizures for physician review.
• Have all medications on hand for review to verify dosing with your doctor.
•Check with your health insurance provider to ensure that your telehealth appointment will be covered. While Medicaid is expanding to match the expansion of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, coverage varies on a state-by-state basis and among providers.