Removing Barriers to Virtual Care
Patients living with arthritis have many concerns and questions and are on a constant search to get the latest, credible information from their peers online and from web searches. At the same time, healthcare professionals are increasingly looking to virtual care as a valuable tool to communicate and consult with their patients at home.
Virtual care — the delivery of health care services and information via electronic methods (two-way video, smartphones, email, etc.) allows more patients with arthritis to see their specialists and helps conserve costs. In response to ACE members who report they would take the opportunity to have a virtual visit if available and the more general growing consumer demand for virtual care, ACE is working closely with arthritis researchers and clinicians on virtual care initiatives across Canada.
Benefits of virtual care for patients and healthcare system
The number of people living with arthritis is estimated to increase from an average of about 6 million people currently to 8 million in 2040. This increase will have a major impact on the healthcare system and negatively affect workplace productivity and the Canadian economy.
Virtual care has the potential to mitigate some of what is expected to be a huge increase in the demand for home- and facility-based continuing care as the population ages, particularly those living with complicated, chronic disease like inflammatory arthritis.
For the diagnosis and treatment of complex types of inflammatory arthritis, it's important that people see a rheumatologist – a specialist specifically trained to treat IA. However, many people with IA live in locations where specialists are scarce and/or have difficulty traveling (due to symptoms like decreased mobility, imbalance or walking issues). Virtual care – the delivery of health care services and information via electronic methods (two-way video, smartphones, email, etc. ) – can address some of these challenges by bringing doctors into patients' homes or nearby clinics.
ACE members and subscribers often share with us the challenges they face when accessing care for their rheumatic disease(s); virtual care offers solutions to some of these problems and allows patients to:
- Avoid or reduce in-person visits to a healthcare provider’s office, which can help patients with disease management. Virtual care can help patients conserve energy, avoid prolonged periods of sitting in the car or public transit and reduce exposure to communicable diseases at healthcare facilities. People with autoimmune forms of arthritis are especially vulnerable to infection.
- Increase productivity at work, as patients are not taking time off work to see their healthcare providers. People with chronic illnesses often describe their patient experience as a “fulltime job” due to the need to travel to and from several different health care providers every week which can be incredibly time consuming.
- Access care faster in rural and remote communities. This is particularly important because evidence suggests that there is a higher prevalence of rheumatic diseases in rural and remote communities.1
1 Measuring geographic variation in access to care for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients: A patient-centred approach. (2019) Arthritis Research Canada. https://www.arthritisresearch.ca/research/measuring-geographic-differences-in-care-for-rheumatoid-arthritis-ra-patients/
Want to get more involved?
Advocate for expanding the use of virtual care in rheumatology. Contact your elected officials.
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