From 2004–2017, U.S. military doctors performed 14,355 teleconsultations in 21 subspecialty groups, including rheumatology, during which providers emailed medical information to a specialist or a central coordinator who then “pushed” the cases and questions to the correct specialty group. “The average reply time is less than six hours for an answer to the provider with minimal rheumatology skills even if they’re on a Navy ship or in a combat support hospital,” he said.
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As the co-chair of the ACR 2015 Workforce Study, which revealed severe gaps in rheumatology providers to serve a rising patient population, Dr. Battafarano believes rheumatology must start to use telemedicine for patient screening and triage, as well as consultations with primary care colleagues.3
“We can increase access to care, limit costs, conduct useful monitoring and patient satisfaction is pretty good too,” he said. “Pulling rheumatologists’ time away from their primary patients is one metric that still needs to be measured. But the potential for telerheumatology is limitless.”
Susan Bernstein is a freelance journalist based in Atlanta.
- McDougall JA, Ferucci ED, Glover J, et al. Telerheumatology: A systematic review. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017 Oct;69(10):1546–1557.
- Tuckson RV, Edmunds M, Hodgkins ML. Telehealth. N Engl J Med. 2017 Oct 19;377(16):1585–1592.
- Battafarano D, Monrad S, Fitzgerald J, et al. 2015 ACR/ARHP workforce study in the United States: Adult rheumatologist supply and demand projections for 2015–2030. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2016 Oct;68(suppl. 10).