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National MS Society, Kern Medical Center Set to Launch Telemedicine Program

Scott Thygerson & Christine Grontkowski   |   2/4/2014 12:00:00 AM

Bakersfield - After more than three years of planning, purchasing and installing equipment, and training staff, the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society in partnership with Kern Medical Center and UCLA will officially launch a telemedicine program to bring access to MS specialty care to the uninsured and underinsured in Kern County. The final test on equipment was completed last Thursday, and the first MS patient has been scheduled for a consultation with Dr. Barbara Giesser, Clinical Director of UCLA MS Clinical Services, on Thursday, February 13.

Staff and volunteers at the Southern California & Nevada Chapter had been exploring ways to deliver MS specialty care to rural and remote areas through telemedicine since 2008. “Soon after, Dr. Giesser expressed an interest in helping people with MS in Kern County,” explained Audra Hindes, who serves as the Chapter’s Senior Director for Clinical Programs, Services, and Advocacy. “And after that, we discovered KMC was already wired for telemedicine. We put two and two together to organize a meeting to discuss further steps.”

MS Clinic Days will be scheduled when local neurologists have a patient needing a second opinion on an MS diagnosis or new treatment management plans. Medical histories will be forwarded in advance of the consultations, which will be conducted by Dr. Geisser. Both UCLA and KMC will use telemedicine equipment consisting of videoconferencing units that enable real time, high quality, face-to-face visits. The(more) consults will offer input on diagnosis and/or treatment, and will develop a care plan to manage the course of each person’s disease.

“We are hoping to have 25 to 30 people seen through this project in the first year, and are hoping that people who have this opportunity will be able to confirm their MS diagnosis, better understand their symptoms and need for treatment and other treatment options,” said Hindes. “We think this service will also educate the health care professionals in Kern County of the complexities of multiple sclerosis care.”

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million worldwide.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. In 2012 alone, through our home office and 50-state network of chapters, we devoted $122.1 million to programs and services that improved the lives of more than one million people. To move us closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested $43.3 million to support more than 350 new and ongoing research projects around the world. We are people who want to do something about MS now. Join the movement at nationalMSsociety.org.