The Impact of Telemedicine on Rheumatology Care

Front Med (Lausanne). 2022 May 20;9:876835. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2022.876835. eCollection 2022.


Background: The pandemic disrupted the care of patients with rheumatic diseases; difficulties in access to care and its psychological impact affected quality of life. Telemedicine as an alternative to traditional face-to-face office visits has the potential to mitigate this impact.

Objective: To evaluate patient and provider experience with telemedicine and its effect on care.

Methods: We surveyed patients with rheumatic diseases and their rheumatology providers. The surveys were conducted in 2020 and repeated in 2021. We assessed data on quality of care and health-related quality of life.

Results: Hundred patients and 17 providers responded to the survey. Patients reported higher satisfaction with telemedicine in 2021 compared to 2020 (94 vs. 84%), felt more comfortable with (96 vs. 86%), expressed a stronger preference for (22 vs. 16%), and higher intention to use telemedicine in the future (83 vs. 77%); patients thought physicians were able to address their concerns. While providers' satisfaction with telemedicine increased (18-76%), 14/17 providers believed that telemedicine visits were worse than in-person visits. There were no differences in annualized office visits and admissions. Mean EQ-5D score was 0.74, lower than general population (0.87) but equivalent to a subset of patients with SLE (0.74).

Conclusion: Our data showed a high level of satisfaction with telemedicine. The lower rheumatology provider satisfaction raises concern if telemedicine constitutes an acceptable alternative to in-person care. The stable number of office visits, admissions, and the similar quality of life to pre-pandemic level suggest effective management of rheumatic diseases using telemedicine/in-person hybrid care.

Keywords: autoimmune diseases (AD); quality of care/care delivery; quality of life; survey; telemedicine; telerheumatology.