Indu Subramanian, MD: Preventing Social Isolation to Prevent Disease Worsening


The director of the VA Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers explained how preventing social isolation—particularly in the time of COVID-19—can help prevent worsened disease states in patients.

“That extra phone call to check-in or scheduling a virtual happy hour with someone that you know has been working nonstop and hasn’t had a break…can be helpful to just share the common human experience that we’re all going through.”

With the ongoing pandemic this year leading to rapid changes in both how patient care is delivered and how individuals can interact, the subject of loneliness has become an important topic in medicine. At the 2020 MDS Virtual Congress, Indu Subramanian, MD, and colleagues presented data from a survey study of more than 1700 patients with idiopathic Parkinson disease, which suggested that social isolation and loneliness may be risk factors for worsened disease severity.

Subramanian, who is the director of the VA Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers, and a staff member in the Department of Neurology at UCLA, spoke to NeurologyLive about how these findings provide perspective on the importance of patient-centric outcomes and measures—particularly in the case of Parkinson disease, which is anticipated to almost double in prevalence over the next few decades.

In this interview, Subramanian shared her insight into how social prescribing—the literal prescription of social interventions for patients—can play a key role in the care of lonely patients, not only in the Parkinson disease population but in the veteran population she sees regularly in the clinic and even in the clinician population. As well, she shared how in the times of COVID-19, the awareness around loneliness and its impacts on health, in general, is particularly relevant.

Subramanian I, Mischley L, Farahnik J. Loneliness/Social Isolation as a Risk Factor for Worsened Parkinson Disease Severity. Presented at MDS Virtual Congress; September 12–16, 2020.
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