February 24, 2021

Short-Term Outcomes in Pediatric and Adolescent Patients with Psychogenic Nonepileptic Events Seen by Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Introduction: Psychogenic nonepileptic events (PNEE) are a type of Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder that present with events that appear epileptic but are not associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, our PNEE clinic switched to a telemedicine format, and we present here our experience with providing care to children and adolescents with PNEE in this format.

Methods: The multidisciplinary clinic shifted to a telemedicine platform in March 2020 with the same joint provider format. Follow-up phone calls are completed at one and three months following the visit. Data are presented with descriptive statistics. Referral volume and outcomes data are compared to historical patients, including rates of diagnosis acceptance, linkage to counseling, and change in event frequency.

Results: Twenty-three patients were scheduled to be seen via telemedicine or hybrid visits from March through June, twenty completed their visits. Sixteen (70%) were reached for follow-up at one month. Of those reached, twelve (75%) accepted the diagnosis, eight (50%) were linked with counseling, and fourteen (88%) with improvement in event frequency. Of the sixteen reached at three months, eleven (69%) had accepted the diagnosis, ten (63%) were linked with counseling, and all but two reported improvement in event frequency. In comparison, the previously published results showed 3-month rates of 75% of patients accepting the diagnosis, 76% linked with counseling, and 75% with improvement in event frequency.

Conclusions: Video telemedicine visits are a feasible and effective way to provide care for children and adolescents with psychogenic non-epileptic events. At 3 months, patients seen by telemedicine had similar acceptance rates, decreased connection to counseling, and increased rate of improvement in event frequency. This study suggests telemedicine may have some benefits over traditional clinic visits, such as improved show rates and access to clinic; so should be considered a reasonable alternative to in-person visits.

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