For the 39 million Americans that report having migraines, prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Migraines are not just bad headaches. They are a disabling neurological disease with various symptoms beyond moderate or severe head pain, including pain that increases with physical activity, sensitivity to light and noise, and even nausea. Some people have migraines that last hours or even days, causing them to miss school or work.
How are migraines diagnosed?
Migraines are not diagnosed through blood tests or MRIs, but through conversations with a physician. A provider will ask questions about the specifics of the pain, what treatment the patient has used in the past, medical and family history, and how the pain impacts daily activities. A neurologist is often consulted to recommend treatment options, which can include acute and preventive care. Acute treatments, like over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, or devices, are used during an attack to relieve pain and stop migraines from worsening. Preventive treatment, such as medications, procedures, devices, lifestyle changes, trigger avoidance, or therapy, tries to reduce the frequency and severity of these attacks.
The neurologist shortage problem
While there are many options for treating migraines, the neurologist shortage has made seeking treatment challenging for some. 18% of healthcare workers have quit their jobs since 2019, and 12% have been laid off. Because of higher demand, patients can end up waiting weeks, or even months, to see a specialist. The situation has been deemed so problematic that the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) characterizes this shortage as a "grave threat" to those seeking neurological care. However, there is an answer to this problem.
Teleneurology for migraines
To find a solution, many hospitals and clinics are adopting teleneurology programs. Utilizing a virtual platform simultaneously with a conventional, in-person medical practice enables migraine sufferers to receive care quicker with a skilled headache specialist, resulting in better treatment options. It works by a teleneurologist connecting virtually with the patient while they are either in a hospital or a physician's office. Just like an in-person appointment, the teleneurologist can evaluate the patient, examine test results, ask essential questions, and perform an exam with the help of an in-person provider. Because diagnosing a migraine does not require a scan or blood test, migraine evaluations are easily adaptable for virtual physicians.
Migraine sufferers appreciate the comfort of telemedicine
According to a recent survey, it is estimated that 91% of patients are more likely to select providers who offer virtual care options over those who don't, with 62% of respondents stating that they prefer to consult with doctors remotely when possible. Furthermore, headaches were the number one ailment that those surveyed said they would seek out virtual treatment for (which tied with COVID symptoms), with 62% preferring a telemedicine visit, compared to 16% that would instead go in person. The same study stated that convenience and faster access to care were the top two reasons for seeking out telemedicine.
Physicians appreciate teleneurology too
Patients are not the only ones who find value in telemedicine. Migraine patients often miss appointments because their symptoms are so severe that they cannot travel far distances to see a neurologist. If a clinic nearby has a teleneurology program, they don't have to put as much effort into getting to the local facility and will be more likely to attend their appointment. Physicians also place significance on the usefulness of faster care, as it keeps patients from seeking the emergency room.
Adopting a teleneurology program
When suffering from an ailment as debilitating as a migraine, patients want care as quickly and efficiently as possible. Not only does teleneurology allow them to see a neurologist without the hassles of waiting months for an appointment, but virtual care also delivers the same quality care as an in-person visit, better access to specialists, and convenience. To learn more about how a teleneurology program can elevate migraine care in your practice, visit www.virtualmedstaff.com.
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