When is a Virtual Neurologist Appointment Appropriate?

When is a Virtual Neurologist Appointment Appropriate?

Most patients are used to going to doctor’s appointments in person, and seeing a doctor virtually may at first seem like it might be lacking something important.  Here I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a telehealth platform for neurological disorders.

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there were few options available for virtual doctor’s appointments.  Congress passed legislation in spring 2020 in response to stay-at-home orders that mandated insurers to cover virtual appointments the same way they would cover in person appointments.  This led to a complete change in how medical care was performed and monitored.  

In addition to the added safety of being able to avoid exposure to COVID-19, being able to see your doctor from home (or wherever you happened to be) was a major convenience for most people, and decreased wait times and travel expenses associated with going to a doctor’s office.  An entire field of medical research on telehealth has started to flourish and provides insights into what kind of appointments are most appropriate virtually or in person.  

The virtual neurological exam

Neurological disorders are unique conditions that often need extensive evaluation in order to ascertain a diagnosis.  This includes a thorough history and a neurological exam.  Although some aspects of the neurological exam cannot be performed virtually, there is a standardized virtual neurological exam that has been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology.  This adapts the virtual exam to allow the provider to provide as complete of an exam as possible.   In the end, if a concern arises, your doctor will be able to refer you to a local neurologist or will order an imaging test if appropriate.  

Access to a neurologist

Access to a neurologist can be extremely difficult, especially if you don’t live in a major city.  Even in most major cities, the wait to see a specialist can take months.  Telehealth has the ability to broaden access to neurological providers significantly, wherever you live.  It can even shorten waitlists as visits often are more quickly expedited and focused.  Additionally, telehealth treatment can have a unique approach to your treatment, such as care coaching, which allows you to track your progress and have a trained specialist support you throughout your journey.

When is telehealth not appropriate?

Telehealth does have limitations, and may not be ideal in all situations.  Some patients will need an in person exam for concerning signs on a telehealth neurological exam.  Some will need referrals for injections or infusions if appropriate.  Most importantly, telehealth shouldn’t be relied on in case of a medical emergency.  

Overall, telehealth is a great way to meet and follow up with a neurologist, but it isn't always appropriate for every situation.  If you're curious to give it a try, you can start your Neura Health trial membership, then schedule a video appointment to be held within just a few days.

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Thomas Berk, MD FAHS
Thomas Berk is Medical Director at Neura Health, where he treats Neura patients via video visit. He is a former Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
About the Author
Thomas Berk, MD FAHS is Medical Director of Neura Health and a neurologist and headache specialist based in New York City. A former Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, he has over 12 years of clinical experience. He graduated from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and completed his neurology residency at NYU as well. He completed a headache fellowship at the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia. He is a Fellow of the American Headache Society and has been on the Super Doctors list of rising stars for the past five years.

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