May 28, 2022

SWHR Pain Network Meeting Addresses Need to Close Gaps in Access to Telemedicine

By Amy Luther, Communications and Policy Intern.  

Telemedicine has become an essential tool for patients living with migraine and other chronic pain and headache disorders, Chia-Chun Chiang, MD, at the Mayo Clinic shared in a Pain Network meeting hosted by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) in April 2022. Dr. Chiang presented the findings of her research, “Patient Experience of Telemedicine for Headache Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An American Migraine Foundation Survey Study.”  

Although 82.8% of survey participants rated their experience of using telemedicine for headache disorder care and treatment as “good” or “very good,” Dr. Chiang pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on barriers when it comes to patients’ utilization of telemedicine. Of survey participants who did not utilize telemedicine, 43.9% reported that they did not know telemedicine was an option, were not offered telemedicine by their health care provider, lacked insurance coverage for telemedicine visits, or lacked access to the necessary technology to utilize telemedicine.  

Over the course of the meeting, network members discussed the importance of being able to seek care without going to a provider’s office and the benefits this provides for patients who are experiencing a migraine attack, including the worsening of symptoms that are associated with traveling for care. Telemedicine can also reduce the burden of seeking health care for those living with chronic pain. Of note, network members raised the point that telemedicine allows access to health care for those who live in rural communities or more remote geographic locations – both of which can make seeking and accessing care particularly challenging.  

While telemedicine increases access to treatment for some patients, it has its barriers too. In her presentation, Dr. Chiang noted potential ways to improve availability and access to care for patients, including expanding insurance coverage of telemedicine (even after peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic have passed), widely promoting and broadcasting the use of telemedicine across care centers, and expanding internet access more broadly. Network members also discussed means to address chronic pain and migraine treatment when challenges with telemedicine persist, including providing new resources for patients who are struggling to find effective treatments for their headache-related pain through telemedicine, re-engaging patients with local, in-person health care providers, and working with patients to use resources uniquely available to them.  

In parallel to Dr. Chiang’s research, dedicated migraine institutions such as the American Migraine Foundation, Miles for Migraine, and Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy have made strides to support and improve telehealth options for patients and caregivers in recent years.  


About SWHR’s Pain Network 

SWHR Science Networks comprise interdisciplinary groups of researchers, clinicians, patient advocates, and other health care leaders with expertise related to a specific disease, condition, or health topic. Our Pain Network focuses on migraine and osteoarthritis and engages in scientific, policy, outreach, and education projects aimed to identify and eliminate barriers in women’s health care related to these diseases.