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Presented by:

  • Grace Wright, MD, PhD, FACR, Consultant Rheumatologist in New York City

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. This required adjustments to how patients accessed health care, and many of these changes remain today. Many patients were able to continue receiving health care during the pandemic through appointments conducted via telehealth technology, using phone and video.

Telemedicine is far from new, but, it is becoming more prominent as public health experts continue to search for ways to decrease the spread of COVID-19 while protecting those who may be immunocompromised and hence at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing complications from it.

As we continue to move forward in and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine visits may continue and be used to help you and your doctor determine when you need to come in for an in-person visit or go for routine testing. In this webinar, rheumatologist Grace Wright, MD, shares some insights to help understand telehealth and when to utilize the services provided through these methods.

Fast Facts from the Webinar

1. Telehealth, or telemedicine, means seeing your provider over a video/audio service.

Telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably. While telemedicine involves using technology to practice medicine, telehealth can be expanded to include nutritionists, physical therapists, and more. Telehealth, or telemedicine, means seeing your provider over a video/audio service, like FaceTime, Skype, or other apps. It can also include phone calls. While there are some things that can be managed using telehealth, some things may be better managed in person. It is important to communicate with your doctor to determine if telehealth is the right option for you.

2. Understand when to use telehealth vs. in-person visits is an important aspect of managing your conditions

It is important to remember that there are things we can and cannot do when using technology to optimally manage our health. While telehealth appointments are extremely helpful, they do not fully replace the benefits of an in-person visit. Striking the right balance and knowing when to use each method is an important aspect of managing your chronic condition. For example, when managing a chronic condition like RA, telehealth visits often work best for things like routine care and follow-up, minor flares and stiffness, managing non-severe medication side effects, reviewing the results of parient assessments such as the RAPID3 and other questionnaires, and making some medication adjustments. In-person visits often work best for getting a diagnosis for a new condition, receiving blood tests and lab work, discussing new or worsening symptoms, and when you have a high-risk disease involving a vital organ. As well, in-person visits are needed for certain treatments or procedures, such as biologic infusions or in-office injections.

The decision of whether to have an in-person vs. telehealth visit should be made with your doctor. For more help navigating telemedicine and determining the need for in-person appointments, visit eRheum.org. Developed by the Global Healthy Living Foundation and CreakyJoints, eRheum provides a personalized guide to telehealth for rheumatology patients.

Read more here about telehealth vs. in-person visits for arthritis and rheumatic conditions.

3. Providers are taking a number of safety procedures to keep patients safe during in-person visits

Managing a chronic disease can be challenging and requires consistent and regular communication with your doctor. In the face of the pandemic, many patients have avoided in-person visits due to fear of contracting COVID-19. In order to combat this, providers are implementing a number of safety procedures designed to keep patients safe during their in-person visits. When the provider’s office is following these procedures, the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 is lower. Should you and your provider determine that in-person visits are best for you and you are worried about contracting COVID-19 during your visit, be sure to speak with your provider’s office about the different safety procedures they have implemented. Read more here about safety procedures that doctors’ offices may follow.

Communicate with your provider, and their office, to make sure you are aware of the safety procedures in place to keep you safe during your visit so you can keep your regular checkup and appointment schedule.

This webinar was made possible with support from AbbVie, Inc.

Get Involved in Arthritis Research

If you are diagnosed with arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first-ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. Learn more and sign up here.

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