It’s not easy to find a specialist trained in pediatric movement disorders. At Children’s of Alabama, there are two: Leon Dure, MD, and Emily Gantz, DO. They and their multidisciplinary team provide the bulk of care for children with movement disorders in Alabama and beyond.
Considering the dearth of movement disorder specialists here in the U.S., Dure wondered what the numbers were like in Africa. His curiosity led him to become a consultant to a pediatric neurologist in Cape Town, South Africa.
Dure’s interest in helping physicians in under-developed countries was piqued through his work with the International Child Neurology Association (ICNA), which seeks to foster education and resources for practitioners in low-resource environments, such as South Asia, Africa and South America.
He recalls a meeting where a doctor from sub-Saharan Africa presented. “She said there are 80 million children under the age of 18 within that region and two or three neurologists,” Dure said. “So, I realized that the types of problems and issues they’re facing are very different from what we face here.”
In the U.S., Dure often receives requests from colleagues for his opinion on a child, typically via a video sent by text. Why, he wondered, couldn’t the same be done for clinicians in low- and moderate-income countries?
Turns out it wasn’t quite so simple, given the challenges of moving information from places as disparate as South Africa and Birmingham. Dure persevered and found vCreate, a tech company that works with the U.K.’s National Health System to provide secure video messaging. There is even a separate unit called vCreateNeuro, a cloud-based service that allows registered patients and clinicians to securely share smartphone-recorded videos.
He and vCreate developed a proof-of-concept project with a neurologist who has an interest in movement disorders at the Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town. When he has something he wants Dure to review, the neurologist uploads it to the vCreate platform, and Dure gets an email alert.
“Then we begin a back-and-forth regarding what to call it, what to do about it, how to work it up, et cetera,” he said.
The pilot has been in place for about six months, and Dure has consulted on about eight videos.
“These are relatively unusual conditions that are very difficult to characterize,” he said. “So just having someone else say ‘Yeah, you got it, you’re right,’ is quite helpful.”
Dure would like to grow the program to other countries with other U.S.-based pediatric neurologists providing their expertise, but that will require funding. For now, vCreate has been providing the technology for free. “I don’t know if that’s going to be a long-term possibility,” he said. “But so far, it works. And I’m able to provide my expertise to somebody in Cape Town without a whole lot of effort.”