New local study will determine if MS patients can benefit from telemedicine

Study with 820 participants will look at using telemedicine with MS patients

About 7,000 people in Alabama and Mississippi have multiple sclerosis. And doctors say there could be thousands more who are undiagnosed. Now a new study being done here in Central Alabama aims to make treatment easier.

People with multiple sclerosis can have difficulty walking and weakness in their muscles. "A condition where sometimes people have a sense of hopelessness," says Dr. Jim Rimmer, "and one of the major side effects of MS is balance and a big risk in people with MS is the risk of fall so we know exercise helps with fall prevention, it helps with balance."

Dr. Rimmer is with the UAB Lakeshore Foundation Research Collaborative. He has been awarded a $5.8 million grant to study the use of telemedicine with MS patients. Specifically if using telemedicine to do exercises yields the same outcomes as visiting a clinic.

For the study patients will be given tablets with 36 exercise rehabilitation sessions already loaded. They can just follow the instructions on the tablet and do the exercises at home. "They just load up the tablet, it's on a stand, they stand a few feet away from the tablet, they do the exercises they hit the table to either temporarily pause it or shut it down and the next day they come up and the video is ready to go so they don't have to think about anything other than today is such and such a date, I hit that date and there's my rehabilitation program for the day," says Rimmer.

Rimmer says this cuts costs and is more convenient for a lot of patients. "There are many many places in Alabama where there aren't any levels of expertise in clinics to address issues of health and rehabilitation among people with multiple sclerosis."

Dr. Rimmer says if the study finds telemedicine does produce the same outcomes as exercises in a clinic, this could change lives.

The study will include 820 participants from Alabama and Mississippi. Enrollment for the study has begun. If you or someone you know is interested in participating call the Lakeshore Foundation at 205-313-7400

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