Objective: Telemedicine has been proposed to improve access to care in rheumatology, but few studies of telerheumatology have been published. The objective of this study was to evaluate outcomes and quality of care for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in patients seen by video telemedicine follow-up compared to in-person only.
Methods: Individuals in the Alaska Tribal Health System with a diagnosis of RA were recruited when seeing a rheumatologist either in-person or by video telemedicine, both of which were offered as part of usual follow-up care. At baseline, participants completed the Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3 (RAPID3) questionnaire and a telemedicine perception survey and agreed to medical record review. Participants repeated surveys by telephone at 6 and 12 months, and medical record abstraction was performed at 12 months for quality measures.
Results: At the 12-month outcome assessment, 63 of 122 RA patients (52%) had ever used telemedicine for RA. In univariate analysis, functional status improved over 12 months in the telemedicine group. In multivariate analysis, RAPID3 score and functional status were associated with telemedicine group (higher), with no statistically significant change over the 12-month period. The only quality measure that differed between groups at 12 months in univariate analysis was the proportion of visits in which disease activity was documented (higher in the in-person group, 40% versus 25%; P = 0.02), but this was not significant after multivariate analysis.
Conclusion: In short-term follow-up, there was no significant difference in most outcome and quality measures in patients with RA who incorporated telemedicine follow-up in their care compared to in-person only.
© 2020 American College of Rheumatology.