Digital Health Technologies

Opportunities and Challenges in Rheumatology

Published in: Nature Reviews Rheumatology, Volume 16, pages 525–535 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41584-020-0461-x

Posted on RAND.org on September 24, 2020

by Daniel H. Solomon, Robert S. Rudin

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The past decade in rheumatology has seen tremendous innovation in digital health technologies, including the electronic health record, virtual visits, mobile health, wearable technology, digital therapeutics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The increased availability of these technologies offers opportunities for improving important aspects of rheumatology, including access, outcomes, adherence and research. However, despite its growth in some areas, particularly with non-health-care consumers, digital health technology has not substantially changed the delivery of rheumatology care. This Review discusses key barriers and opportunities to improve application of digital health technologies in rheumatology. Key topics include smart design, voice enablement and the integration of electronic patient-reported outcomes. Smart design involves active engagement with the end users of the technologies, including patients and clinicians through focus groups, user testing sessions and prototype review. Voice enablement using voice assistants could be critical for enabling patients with hand arthritis to effectively use smartphone apps and might facilitate patient engagement with many technologies. Tracking many rheumatic diseases requires frequent monitoring of patient-reported outcomes. Current practice only collects this information sporadically, and rarely between visits. Digital health technology could enable patient-reported outcomes to inform appropriate timing of face-to-face visits and enable improved application of treat-to-target strategies. However, best practice standards for digital health technologies do not yet exist. To achieve the potential of digital health technology in rheumatology, rheumatology professionals will need to be more engaged upstream in the technology design process and provide leadership to effectively incorporate the new tools into clinical care.

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