Many things have become possible since the advent of the internet. A few decades ago, telemedicine would seem fictional but now, doctors can diagnose illnesses and patients get medical advice without the hassles of personal appointments through virtual house calls.

By using an internet-hooked computer and a webcam, doctors on virtual house call can conveniently check simple health maladies such as fever and cough but the technology is likely to take a more complex turn as technology advocates and patient groups call for telemedicine to be extended to patients with more serious illnesses.

For patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as Parkinson's and their families, virtual house call does not just provide convenience. It can also save them from the difficulties associated with traveling to personally see the doctor. The Parkinson's Action Network says that about 40 percent of patients with Parkinson's do not see a specialist and one reason for this is that the patients live too far from the doctor. The situation can apparently be changed with telemedicine.

"Why can't we provide care to people wherever they are?" Ray Dorsey, a neurologist from the University of Rochester Medical Center asked the Associated Press. "Think of taking your mom with Alzheimer's to a big urban medical center. Just getting through the parking lot they're disoriented."

Although there are challenges involved with virtual house calls such as the Medicare not paying for in-home videotests, some states restricting services that are provided online and doctors who provide video-based medical service can only treat patients residing in states where they are licensed, the technology is gaining interest.

Findings of a study conducted by Dorsey and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins and the University of Rochester Medical Center which was published in JAMA Neurology last year, also found potentials in telemedicine for patients with Parkinson's disease.

By involving 20 patients with Parkinson's disease, the researchers found that the clinical benefits of virtual house calls are comparable to that provided in personal visits to the doctor's office. Dorsey said that neurologists can carry out almost all of the tests they traditionally do in their office for Parkinson's patients such as observe tremors, watch the patient walk and assess facial expressions.

"It appears we can use the same technology Grandma uses to chat with her grandson to provide her with valuable medical care in her home," Dorsey said.

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