Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgery used to treat Parkinson’s where electrodes are implanted deep into the brain and electrical stimulation is delivered through a pacemaker-like device. DBS becomes a treatment option for people living with Parkinson’s who are no longer able to use medication alone to treat their symptoms effectively.
When Canadians living with Parkinson’s explore DBS as a treatment option, they discover the process involves monthly appointments with their neurosurgeon after the surgery to have the device fine-tuned so it treats their Parkinson’s symptoms most effectively.
In this digital world, technology like telemedicine and virtual clinics are making strides in reducing the barriers to care for many Canadians, especially those living in rural areas.
The Neurosphere Virtual Clinic
Toronto Western Hospital’s Krembil Brain Institute is the first clinic to implement a new telemedicine technology in Canada – a virtual DBS clinic. Mount Pearl, Newfoundland resident George Martin became the first Canadian to receive his DBS adjustments remotely through the virtual clinic.
George had already traveled from his home in Newfoundland to Toronto for multiple intake appointments and the procedure. Without the virtual clinic technology, George would have needed to travel back to Toronto frequently for his adjustments, as well. After 16 years of living with Parkinson’s with little success in managing his symptoms, George is out walking his dogs, visiting restaurants, dancing and driving once again.
Dr. Alfonso Fasano, a clinician investigator at the institute, told CBC News that the COVID-19 pandemic provided the incentive to roll out a fully remote treatment option.
Canadians living with Parkinson’s know these barriers well
In 2021, Parkinson Canada produced the National Advocacy Roundtable Report. More than 150 Canadians impacted by Parkinson’s all over the country told us what concerns them most. One of the emerging themes? Access to care.
There is only 1 movement disorder specialist for every 1,400 Canadians living with Parkinson’s. PEI, the territories, and other places don’t have any available movement disorder specialists, and only a handful of clinics across the country can perform DBS and oversee follow-up appointments. Leaving residents of those areas seeking care far from home and on their own dime.
The landscape of this beautiful country keeps Canadians impacted by Parkinson’s well acquainted with the challenges in receiving care and support outside of urban centers. Telemedicine holds so much promise in helping address these geographic barriers. It is being recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a recommended strategy for treating Parkinson’s not only in Canada but around the globe.