By Ben Thrutchley
Imagine the challenge of getting through daily life as Parkinson’s disease progresses and grips your body. You may have a loved one in that situation, or you may see the struggles of these patients if you have a clinical role here at Kaiser Permanente. Now imagine if new technology could help, but you didn’t have access to the best doctors doing the latest medically proven treatments.
Luckily, that isn’t something members of Kaiser Permanente have to worry about. Our embrace of innovation recently put us on the leading edge of Parkinson’s disease management.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.
In mid-December of 2016, a Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States’ member with Parkinson’s approached his neurosurgeon, Dr. Zach Levine at Kaiser Permanente’s premier hospital Holy Cross, about a new and greatly improved device for managing abnormal movements. By January 3, Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group doctors gained approval for the new device and became some of the first physicians to provide this care in the Mid-Atlantic States. Interestingly, Permanente physicians on the West Coast (Northern California) were also one of the first in their region to implant this device.
“The short amount of time between patient request and device approval for use across Kaiser Permanente was amazing,” said Dr. Ejaz Shamim a leader in KPMAS’ Department of Neurology. “This experience highlights Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to innovation and the importance of our integrated care model. Because of both, we quickly responded to our patient’s need and became one of the first to deliver this new, more effective care.”
The device, called St. Jude Medical Infinity, manages deep brain stimulation (DBS) treatment with electrodes along the patient’s brain and a modulator in the chest. Patients need DBS because as Parkinson’s disease progresses the side effects of the medication become so significant that lower doses of medication and DBS are necessary.
For the previous twenty years, physicians providing DBS treatment could not change the direction of the electrical current and avoid potential side effects such as impaired speech. Additionally, if changes needed to be made, the patient had to be physically wired to a second device.
The new treatment is significantly better for members. It allows them and their physician to change the electrical current direction, manipulate the electrical field in their brain, and better control the symptoms of Parkinson’s with DBS. And, with wireless technology, members can even control the new device through their smart phone.
Kaiser Permanente’s integrated care model and commitment to providing high-quality care helped us respond to a member’s needs quickly, become one of the first in our region to offer a greatly improved treatment, and make a real difference in our members’ lives.