Fighting Parkinson’s, This Veteran’s Interdisciplinary Care Plan Includes Telehealth

Clinician talking with a Veteran through a video appointment.

A 56-year-old Army Veteran diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease is now thriving thanks to the care he received through the Central Virginia VA Health Care System.

Under the initial care of a neurologist at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina, Jeff Howe had reached the maximum level of medication allowed. This caused him disabling side effects. His doctors there referred him to the Parkinson’s Disease Research Education and Clinical Center (PADRECC) at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. There, patients work with an interdisciplinary team who manages their care.

Because Howe lived 300 miles away, doctors conducted his initial evaluation via telehealth. When it became apparent his medication had lost its effectiveness, his PADRECC team recommended deep brain stimulation (DBS), which involves placing a small wire into the brain to deliver a well-controlled electrical current. This functions as an “off switch” for the brain signals that cause abnormal physical movements and follow ups.

“It’s not a cure, but it helps,” said Miriam Hirsch, DBS nurse coordinator and clinical research nurse in PADRECC. After the procedure, the PADRECC team again used telehealth to conduct follow ups with Howe.

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