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Rheumatoid arthritis patients can improve their overall well-being and their symptoms by participating in a 12-week, digital program with a dedicated health coach, according to research presented at the 2017 American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in San Diego.

Often overwhelmed, RA patients require coaching and care coordination, according to Uma Srivastava, one of the authors and associate director of strategic partnerships at Pack Health.

“However, rheumatologists often lack the time, tools and training required to effectively coach patients in the office environment,” Srivastava said. “This study shows that incorporating tools such as digital remote patient coaching into the workflow of clinicians can support better outcomes, patient experience and health care utilization. In turn, clinicians are able to overcome barriers such as time, cost and patient non-adherence to recommended care.”

Srivastava and colleagues enrolled 127 rheumatoid arthritis patients in a 12-week digital health coaching program, which paired each patient with a non-clinical health coach. The coaches phoned the patients on a weekly basis, and after the three months, researchers surveyed the patients about the degree to which their behaviors changed over the studied period.

The patients told the researchers that their body-mass index decreased, they were more physically active (an increase of 76 percent), they slept an average of .3 more hours a night, and they reduced the number of medication doses they missed each week by a half. And after completing the program, the patients experienced a 50 percent drop in frequency of RA flares.

“Future studies should examine the impact of coaching in various segments of RA patients such as underserved, those with multiple comorbidities and those newly diagnosed versus patients living with RA for multiple years,” the researchers wrote.