Background: Tight and personalised control of inflammatory bowel disease in a traditional setting is challenging because of the disease complexity, high pressure on outpatient clinics, and rising incidence. We compared the effects of self-management with a telemedicine system, which was developed for all subtypes of inflammatory bowel disease, on health-care utilisation and patient-reported quality of care versus standard care.
Methods: We did this pragmatic, randomised trial in two academic and two non-academic hospitals in the Netherlands. Outpatients aged 18-75 years with inflammatory bowel disease and without an ileoanal or ileorectal pouch anastomosis, who had internet access and Dutch proficiency, were randomly assigned (1:1) to care via a telemedicine system (myIBDcoach) that monitors and registers disease activity or standard care and followed up for 12 months. Randomisation was done with a computer-generated sequence and used the minimisation method. Participants, health-care providers, and staff who assessed outcome measures were not masked to treatment allocation. Primary outcomes were the number of outpatient visits and patient-reported quality of care (assessed by visual analogue scale score 0-10). Safety endpoints were the numbers of flares, corticosteroid courses, hospital admissions, emergency visits, and surgeries. Analyses were by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02173002.
Findings: Between Sept 9, 2014, and May 18, 2015, 909 patients were randomly assigned to telemedicine (n=465) or standard care (n=444). At 12 months, the mean number of outpatient visits to the gastroenterologist or nurse was significantly lower in the telemedicine group (1·55 [SD 1·50]) than in the standard care group (2·34 [1·64]; difference -0·79 [95% CI -0·98 to -0·59]; p<0·0001), as was the mean number of hospital admissions (0·05 [0·28] vs 0·10 [0·43]; difference -0·05 [-0·10 to 0·00]; p=0·046). At 12 months, both groups reported high mean patient-reported quality of care scores (8·16 [1·37] in the telemedicine group vs 8·27 [1·28] in the standard care group; difference 0·10 [-0·13 to 0·32]; p=0·411). The mean numbers of flares, corticosteroid courses, emergency visits, and surgeries did not differ between groups.
Interpretation: Telemedicine was safe and reduced outpatient visits and hospital admissions compared with standard care. This self-management tool might be useful for reorganising care of inflammatory bowel disease towards personalised and value-based health care.
Funding: Maastricht University Medical Centre and Ferring.
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