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AHS 2020: Annual Meeting Goes Virtual to Address COVID Impact, Frontiers in Headache Research

Andrew Charles, MD, provides insight into this year's annual scientific meeting.

On Saturday, June 13, the American Headache Society (AHS) launched its annual scientific meeting, focused on headache medicine in the era of COVID and frontiers in headache research. Practical Pain Management (PPM) spoke to the Meeting Program Chair, Andrew Charles, MD, about this year’s goals and unique setting – a virtual platform – as well as how clinicians are coping during the pandemic. The 2020 AHS sessions will be available online for 1 year.

Dr. Charles serves as professor of neurology and director of the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, as well as the Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Migraine and Headache Studies.


PPM: AHS has shifted its annual meeting to be entirely online this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Could you share your brief take on how the coronavirus has disrupted headache care?

Dr. Charles: The primary disruption has been for those who need procedures, such as botulinum toxin injections, nerve injections, or others. Many patients have come to depend on receiving these injections in a timely fashion and suffer when they aren't able to receive them. So for providers, resuming the procedures has been a top priority. For those who don't need procedures, we have done remarkably well under the circumstances. Follow-up patients, for example, can generally be effectively managed with video visits. While a video visit is obviously not ideal for new patients, we have found that a significant majority can be diagnosed and also managed effectively without an in-person visit. Headache medicine is in some ways well suited to remote care.  


PPM: Do you envision that the pandemic-driven changes being made to medical practice today will have a long-term impact? For instance, are we identifying gaps or better methods of patient communication that could sustain beyond COVID?

Dr. Charles: It has become clear that telehealth can be efficient and effective for the management of headache patients, and it is likely that it will be here to stay for a significant portion of our practice. Another key issue is the electronic medical record (EMR), which has the capacity to serve as a critically important tool for communication, patient management, and research. Thus far, the EMR has largely been used for documentation and billing purposes, but using the EMR to better capture patient-centered information would be a useful approach to continue beyond the pandemic. 


PPM: Do you see physician burnout worsening during this time - and if so, what would you advise to clinicians?

Dr. Charles: While these have been extremely challenging times, I actually think that the new opportunities that we are presented with have the potential to reduce provider burnout rather than increasing it. Those providers who are experiencing burnout should be energized by the remarkable new therapies that are now available, and that are on the horizon. Increased ability to help patients and higher patient satisfaction is always a good antidote to burnout. 


PPM: Getting back to the annual meeting, what do you hope attendees will gain from AHS’s 2020 virtual sessions?

Dr. Charles: Attendees who view the sessions (which launch on June 13 and will be available for 1 year thereafter) will learn about the latest basic research, and the latest clinical science including the results of the most clinical trials of therapies. Providers will learn new approaches that will enable them to provide state of the art care to their patients. 


PPM: Several research awards are being presented at the 2020 AHS meeting. What areas of advancement in headache medicine are you most excited about and why?                              

Dr. Charles: The understanding of the basic mechanisms of headache disorders is expanding rapidly, and neurophysiological and imaging techniques are leading the way in this expansion of knowledge. In particular, the new information about non-headache symptoms of migraine has enormous potential to provide us with a clearer picture of what goes on in the brain during a migraine attack, and how we might target different patterns of brain activity with new therapies. 


PPM: To close, where do you envision headache care going – what is needed next?

Dr. Charles: Although our field has made enormous progress, much remains to be done. The effectiveness of the new therapies represents an important opportunity for us to take the clinical observations back to the laboratory to investigate fundamental mechanisms. And for those who don't respond to the new therapies, we need to understand why not, and continue to develop new approaches to more effectively managing the extraordinary number of patients who are disabled by headache disorders. 

View the full program agenda

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Last updated on: June 15, 2020
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