Telehealth for suspected epileptic seizures

Researchers from La Trobe University and Eastern Health have tested the feasibility of telehealth, compared to face-to-face appointments, in metropolitan and regional patients referred to Eastern Health’s First Seizure Clinic

Health care provision using telehealth has become business-as-usual during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Australia, over 18 million medical consults have been delivered to patients, via secure digital platforms, since the beginning of the pandemic.

But how effective is telehealth for people who have experienced their first suspected seizure?

Researchers from La Trobe University and Eastern Health tested the feasibility of telehealth, compared to face-to-face appointments, in metropolitan and regional patients referred to Eastern Health’s First Seizure Clinic.

“Prompt access to a specialist neurology assessment is critical after a first suspected seizure,” explains lead researcher, Annie Lewis. “We wanted to determine if telehealth was effective in improving access, facilitating early assessment, and providing care that empowers people to effectively self-manage after experiencing a first seizure.”

The research team found that telehealth consults were the right fit for some patients and were comparable to face-to-face care.

Patients were more likely to agree to a telehealth consultation if they were women, had previous experience and confidence in using videoconferencing, and had access to the appropriate technology and internet connection.

Parenting responsibilities, restrictions on driving post suspected-seizure, and minimising time off work and exposure to COVID-19 were also factors that informed the uptake of telehealth consults.

“Acceptance and demand for telehealth is heavily influenced by perception of choice, and the relative benefits perceived by patients,” says Lewis. “Issues such as discomfort with technology or a preference for a face-to-face appointment can be overcome if patients are presented with telehealth as a standard care option that provides advantages over attending the clinic.”

Lewis hopes that this feasibility study will inform further research investigating the quality of care and health economics of telehealth in this setting.

“The inclusion of telehealth as a delivery option for first seizure clinics, during and beyond the pandemic, may provide an effective way to meet the needs of a group of potentially vulnerable patients who would not otherwise have access to specialist assessment after a first suspected seizure,” Lewis says.

Read the paper.

Learn more about the Academic and Research Collaborative in Health (ARCH) and the Eastern Health ARCH.