Telemedicine helps patients with rheumatoid arthritis
71-year old Hanne Stampe Bang from Denmark suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. But with help from telemedicine she has been able to focus less on her disease (photo: Tonny Foghmar, Aarhus University Hospital).
Why is the timing of patients' follow-up visits always decided by the hospital? Can patients not find out themselves? Yes, they can; according to the first promising results of a research project on use of telemedicine in patients with chronic rheumatoid arthritis from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University in Denmark.
Chronic rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that should be detected early and treated without delay. When the condition is well-treated, the main point is to control and follow-up on the disease.
At Aarhus University Hospital the patients with rheumatoid arthritis visit the Department of Rheumatology every 3-6 months for follow-up. A new research project – the TeRA project – is conducted in collaboration between Aarhus University Hospital and Silkeborg Regional Hospital and the purpose is to use telemedicine in the follow-up of patients with rheumatoid arthritis; and it seems to work.
Approximately 300 patients have tested use of telemedicine. Every 3 or 4 months a questionnaire is sent to them about their disease and the patients fill in the questionnaire at home. After 14 days a doctor or nurse calls the patient for a telephone consultation. In this way patients do not need to visit the hospital unless there is a deterioration of their disease.
- The preliminary results of the research project show that follow-up using telemedicine is just as successful as conducting follow-up visits at hospital, says head of the research project Annette Ladefoged de Thura, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Department of Rheumatology, Aarhus University Hospital and Associate Professor at Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University.
- We can see the patients are very satisfied with the telemedicine solution. They save time by not having to visit the hospital and they do not feel as ill when they can manage the follow-up at home. In this way the telemedicine solution contributes to shifting focus from having a chronic disease.
Annette Ladefoged de Thurah has not experienced any insecurity related to not seeing a doctor or a nurse as often among the patients participating in the research project.
- We encouraged patients to contact us if they suddenly felt worse. And our door is always open if some of the patients feel they need a consultation at the hospital.
The TeRA project is the first research project in the world testing if telemedicine is a safe way of following disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is planned to make the telemedicine solution a standard offer to patients with chronic rheumatoid arthritis at Department of Rheumatology at Aarhus University Hospital.
- 40,000 Danes have chronic rheumatoid arthritis
- Prevalence of the disease in the Danish population is 0.7-1 %. Disease debut typically around the age of 40-50 years
- Primarily women have chronic rheumatoid arthritis
Annette Ladefoged de Thurah, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Department of Rheumatology, Aarhus University Hospital and Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University
Tel.: +45 29 12 07 22, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org