17:44 PM

Rheumatology Research Foundation Announces Additional Funds for Telehealth Studies

Rheumatology Network interviews S. Louis Bridges Jr., MD, PhD, physician-in-chief, chair of the Department of Medicine and chief of the Division of Rheumatology at HSS, about projects exploring telehealth at the Rheumatology Research Foundation. Dr. Bridges, who is also the President of the Foundation, discussed the types of studies he hopes to see get funded, the current state of telehealth, and what he believes is in store for the future of telemedicine for rheumatologists and patients with rheumatic diseases.

“So as you know, during the COVID pandemic, many if not all, primatologists were very limited in the number of in-person visits they could conduct. So, a large number of them were shifted to telehealth and a lot were done urgently,” noted Dr. Bridges. “And we were on the very steep part of the learning curve as to how best to do telehealth. So, there's a great need for ways to study the impact of telehealth on patient outcomes, how to optimize the way that telehealth works, how to better prepare the patients for a telehealth visit, to manage the problems that are technologies to assess joint swelling, and other manifestations of rheumatic disease,” he said.

Dr. Bridges continued, “Some of the things that we are interested in are leveraging telehealth to drive health equity and expand access to rheumatology care, particularly in underrepresented minorities and individuals that have trouble with access to care. Try to improve the uptake and satisfaction for both rheumatologist and rheumatology providers, as well as patients helping to drive policies that regulate telehealth to make sure that they are supportive of telehealth for the population that needs it. And we really want things that will drive improvements in patient outcomes, or at least inform how we can improve patient outcomes, using telehealth and tele-rheumatology.”

Dr. Bridges concluded. “I think telehealth is here to stay in rheumatology, again, for a certain set of patients. Those that live in very isolated areas that have significant transportation problems. Ideally, patients who are stable and need only a brief check-in with review of medications and ordering of labs throughout toxicity. So, I think that we will not see telehealth go away. If, you know, what we hope is that it will improve better and better care with improved patient outcomes, that it will continue to be reimbursed through insurance plans because it is going to be part of our armamentarium for the foreseeable future. So, I think we will see telehealth in rheumatology expand in certain areas, grow, and improve. And we'll always have the need to see our patients in person at certain times in their disease course. But I think that telehealth is really part of the long term vision of most rheumatologists who do outpatient, because we're mostly an outpatient specialty. I think telehealth and rheumatology is here to stay.”

Read the full article at Rheumatologynetwork.com.