One of the sobering realities of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is that there exists a critical shortage of neurologists to take on the care of skyrocketing numbers of sufferers. As a neurologist, I often say to my patients, “You easily outnumber us.” The prevalence estimates are staggering, and they suggest a need to wake up and deal with the reality of Parkinson’s disease before a worldwide crisis emerges. It is overwhelming to consider that by 2030, the world’s most populous nations will double the number of Parkinson’s disease sufferers to almost 30 million. So the question must be asked — who is taking care of the Parkinson disease patient? The answer might surprise you. In the majority of cases worldwide, the primary care physician, not the neurologist, cares for Parkinson’s patients.
The Parkinson’s disease community has failed to reach out to family doctors and internists to provide regular, meaningful education and guidance in the best care practices. At the Parkinson's Foundation, we have worked to rectify this deficiency over the last year by constructing a creative and easy-to-use website, and a smartphone app — the Parkinson's Toolkit.
The toolkit is aimed at primary care physicians, allied health professionals, or even general neurologists caring for Parkinson’s patients. The tool is divided into four sections, including planning, symptom management, diagnosis, and treatment. It provides important steps to aid in diagnosing and managing a patient with Parkinson’s and also has information about follow-up visits and critical tips on hospitalization. The website and smartphone app provide quick and easy access to seminal Parkinson’s references/papers, handouts, and other foundation resources. There is also information on the free Parkinson's Foundation Helpline, 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) that is fully staffed by Parkinson’s specialists.
It is important that practitioners using the Parkinson’s Toolkit understand it includes information for the treatment of both basic and complex patients. The Toolkit highlights issues that can be overlooked, but play very important roles in the overall quality of life of a sufferer, including sleep, constipation, A broad medical term used to describe a loss of contact with reality that involves hallucinations and/or delusions., screening for melanoma, and whether or not a more detailed neurological consultation would be required. There are more than 100 topics available at a practitioner’s fingertips.
The Parkinson’s Toolkit app can be downloaded at no cost at both the iTunes App Store and the Android Market. The Parkinson’s Toolkit website also allows clinicians to opt in to email updates from the Parkinson's Foundation on a regular basis.
There is an urgent need in the field to provide all practitioners with easy-to-access information to achieve the best possible care for the Parkinson disease patient. Until the day comes where we have more movement disorders trained neurologists than we know what to do with, weapons such as the Parkinson’s Toolkit will need to be deployed to provide the critical bridge to the best possible care.
You can find out more about our National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, by also visiting the Center of Excellence, University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Dr. Okun is also the author of the Amazon #1 Parkinson's Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life and 10 Breakthrough Therapies for Parkinson's Disease.