Telehalth and telemedicine can be used to help address different aspects of rheumatoid arthritis and related conditons. Often times coping with a chronic illness and the ups and downs of it all, can be overwhelming. If you feel you need help managing your wellbeing, seeking a counselor and/or counseling can be accessed through these two types of healthcare options.

What are Telemedicine and Telehealth?

Before I even found out about what telehealth or telemedicine was exactly, I had no idea that I was already participating in this form of patient care. To those unfamiliar of what these are, it can sound a bit futuristic. Yet surprisingly, they have been around for a while.

Here’s a breakdown:

Both of these terms are at times used interchangeably, with other debates stating that they are two different forms of patient care.

Telemedicine

This service allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnosis and treat patients in remote locations using telecommunications technology.

Patients who are living in remote locations can get access to medical attention quickly with no traveling needed.

This is often crucial for those living with rheumatoid arthritis who either have no access to a medical professional for treatment, are in too much pain to travel to a doctor and who need urgent advice or care.

Healthcare and insurance companies today have made it extremely difficult for patients to access care in an efficient manner. Many conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and mental health, require prompt medical treatment. If left untreated or under-diagnosed they can be detrimental and even deadly.

There are three types of solutions within telemedicine.

  • Store-and-forward telemedicine- This is also called “asynchronous telemedicine.” Medical professionals can use this as a means to share patient information like lab reports, images and other records with another doctor or specialist in other locations. This is especially important with those living with chronic illness who see more than one provider. This is used often in diagnosing and treatments within dermatology, ophthalmology and radiology.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring- This is good when your doctor or other healthcare provider wants to track your vital signs and various activities from a distance. More high-risk patients benefit from this such as those with heart conditions or recently released from the hospital. Diabetics can keep an eye out for their glucose levels and elderly patients in assisted living homes can be monitored inexpensively.
  • Real-time telemedicine- As also stated on Chiron Health, this is a form of video conferencing were specific software is used to protect patient privacy. It must meet strict patient protections required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Basically, Facebook or Skype video chat are not appropriate telemedicine methods. It is often used instead of a trip to the doctor, which if you are living with rheumatoid arthritis can be helpful if you’re not having a good day. It’s popular within primary care, urgent care, follow-up visits, management of a chronic illness and medications.

 

Telehealth

Telehealth is a bit different as it’s more of a broad term encompassing many aspects of the healthcare experience, although it’s the same premise.

This allows the patient and doctor to connect and communication long distance, provide care, reminders, advice, education, intervention, monitoring and remote admissions. As also stated on AMD Global Telemedicine, “It involves the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies.”

There are four types of solutions within telehealth.

  • Live-Video Conferencing- is a general video call used by both physicians in public local hospitals or medical professionals within a private practice.
  • Asynchronous Video (AKA Store-and-Forward)- this method is used within rural areas where there is a shortage of specialists. Providers can often consult with specialists for their patients.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)- used for seniors and related assisted living areas to remotely monitor a person’s medical data in one location and have it sent electronically to a nurse or provider for review. Very good for seniors who need their vitals watched or monitoring any fall risks.
  • Mobile Health (mHealth)- smart phones, tablets and other software installed on these devices can help track and monitor a patient’s lifestyle, wellness habits, vitals and more. Many apps allow for the information that’s placed in by the patient to be sent directly to their healthcare provider.

How they can help those with rheumatoid arthritis

First, we must address why it’s important to be aware that these options exist.

There is a huge shortage of rheumatologists, especially in rural areas. Patients with limited or no access are at more risk for complications. Early and aggressive treatment is crucial and the various types of telemedicine and telehealth can be extremely beneficial to these target areas in need.

It can improve outcomes when a patient needs monitoring on different medications, fast advice on treatments options and flexibility in appointment scheduling. Many patients living with arthritis have to deal with an onslaught of symptoms and situations that may not make it feasible for an in person visit.

Since my diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JIA) in 2005, I have seen and been helped my several medical professionals both in person and virtually.

I have had access to many forms of telemedicine and telehealth listed above. As a patient advocate, I am passionate about sharing different ways to manage the disease with my community.

These approaches have provided well-rounded care for many patients, including myself who need prompt and easy assistance.

Importance of managing your mental health and emotional well-being with rheumatoid arthritis

BetterHelp is the world’s largest e-counseling platform and is an example telemedicine or telehealth service.

They offer access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), and board licensed professional counselors (LPC).

While rheumatoid arthritis impacts the physical body, the overall changes that can occur may cause anxiety or depression, or both. Learning effective ways to deal with the disease outside of the physical level can be of benefit.

 

*Note: While this post is sponsored by BetterHelp, all opinions expressed in this post are my own.