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Would you Skype with a headache specialist?

Would you Skype with a headache specialist?

Imagine seeing a specialist who really understands migraine and can recommend the best possible treatments for you. Some of us are fortunate to have a specialist nearby or are able to travel to see one, but that’s not the case for most of us. There are only 520 certified headache specialists, and they’re mostly concentrated in urban areas, and 38 million Americans have migraine. The numbers just don’t add up.

Telemedicine, which uses videoconferencing technology to connect patients and doctors are different locations—basically seeing a doctor by Skype—could solve this problem. Two studies presented at the AHS conference in June examined this possibility… and it looks promising.

The first study looked at the quality of care. Of those undergoing treatment via telemedicine, 77.4% of migraine patients were prescribed or recommended acute treatments that have shown to be effective in studies. At in-person appointments, only 27% of patients received such evidence-based recommendations.

Patient satisfaction, treatment effectiveness, and practical logistics were assessed in the second study. Researchers found that telemedicine delivered both high satisfaction for patients and saved them money. The study also exposed some pitfalls to the technology, which will help researchers decide how to best implement the technology in the future.

Telemedicine is a natural fit for headache medicine since patients rarely require a physical exam after their initial appointment. It is already being used successfully for traumatic brain injury and concussion treatment. But there are some downfalls. While telemedicine will give more patients access to doctors, it won’t increase the number of doctors providing care. Six-month waits are already common for in-person appointments and telemedicine seems likely to increase the wait. Also, the cost savings to patients only appears to apply to travel expenses and the opportunity cost of time spent in the waiting room, not the cost of the appointment. The patient is still paying for the doctor’s time and telemedicine will not reduce the amount of time a doctor spends with a patient.

Telemedicine is promising for patients who do not live near certified headache specialists nearby and cannot travel to see one. It could also benefit those of us who are too sick to make it to appointments. The logistics still need to be worked out, but this is a good step forward in providing better migraine treatment.

What do you think? Would you try telemedicine?


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Friedman, D. I.; Rajan, B.; Seidmann, A.; Hawkins, J. (2015, June). Telemedicine for Migraine Management: Interim Study Results. Poster session presented at the meeting of the American Headache Society, Washington, D.C.
  2. Markwell, S.; Smith, T.R.; Nicholson, R.A.; Dummitt, B.W.; Yount, B.W.; Stoneman, J.L. (2015, June). TeleMedicine Improves Migraine Care Quality: Results of a Pilot TeleHeadache Program. Poster session presented at the meeting of the American Headache Society, Washington, D.C.