Telemedicine applied to neuromuscular disorders: focus on the COVID-19 pandemic era

Melania Giannotta 1, Cristina Petrelli 2, Antonella Pini 1

1Neuromuscular Pediatric Unit, UOC di Neuropsichiatria dell’età pediatrica, IRCCS Istituto delle Scienze Neurologiche di Bologna, Bologna, Italy; 2 Neurological Unit ASUR Marche AV3, Macerata, Italy

DOI 10.36185/2532-1900-066

Neuromuscular diseases are rare and usually chronic progressive disorders that require a multidisciplinary clinical evaluation and functional monitoring. The patient-physician relationship and therapies are also key elements to be provided. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way patients’ health was managed and national health care services underwent a radical reorganization. Telemedicine, with the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) by health professionals, became the main strategy to ensure the continuation of care. However, the experience regarding the use of Telemedicine in neuromuscular disorders is very limited and the scientific literature is extremely scarce.
From the first experiences in the ’50s, the development of Telemedicine has been supplemented and supported by the implementation of ICT to guarantee the secure and effective transmission of medical data. Italian national guidelines (2010-2020) describe the technical and professional guarantees necessary to provide Telemedicine services. Nevertheless, at the time the pandemic appeared, no guidelines for clinical evaluation or for the administration of functional scales remotely were available for neuromuscular diseases. This has been a critical point when clinical evaluations were mandatory also for the renewal of drug prescriptions. However, the common opinion that telemedicine basic services were important to overcome the change in medical practice due to COVID-19 in neuromuscular diseases, even in pediatric age, emerged. Moreover, alternative digital modalities to evaluate patients at home in a kind of virtual clinic were considered as a field of future development.

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