Technology in medicine is no longer new or trendy. It’s pervasive. Rheumatologists may now assume a patient has searched online for information about his or her diagnosis or potential therapies.
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Explore This IssueJuly 2018
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Both physicians and rheumatology health professionals should acknowledge their patients’ Internet surfing and find out what they’ve read, says Betsy Roth-Wojcicki, RN, MS, CPNP, an advanced practice provider in pediatric rheumatology at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee.
“I often ask new patients or their parents, as part of the medical history, if they’ve gone to the Internet for information before coming to the clinic visit. By inquiring about their use of the Internet, a medical provider can clarify and accurately assess the information [the patient has] already obtained,” she says.
A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, “The Internet and Health,” found that 59% of U.S. adults had looked online for health information in the previous year, and 35% of U.S. adults had used online information to try to diagnose their or someone else’s condition.1 The study also found that 35% of those “online diagnosers” said they did not visit a clinician to confirm that diagnosis.
What about patients with diagnosed rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? A small study published in 2018 shows that even older RA patients turn to social networking sites, such as Facebook, to find information about disease self-management or therapies, and feel comfortable talking with fellow patients in online support groups.2 Tech health goes beyond the Web: New digital apps allow arthritis patients to track and download health data to share with their rheumatologists, and proprietary Internet telephony (such as Skype) and virtual reality (VR) are changing the practice of rheumatology.
To help rheumatology providers stay up to date, the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in Chicago will include sessions on new technology in rheumatology, from telemedicine to evidence on how health apps and sensors affect patient outcomes.
“Technology in medicine hasn’t reached the tsunami level yet, but I’d say it is a trend, and we are seeing a lot of buzz in this area,” says Swamy Venuturupalli, MD, FACR, attending rheumatologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and founder of Attune Health. He chairs the subcommittee planning the TechMed sessions for this year’s Annual Meeting, which will include a session called Digital Evidence: Do Apps, Sensors & VR Help Patients?