Why digital healthcare is essential for self-managing inflammatory arthritis

by Jaida Temperly
3 minute read

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The study: A multidisciplinary task force supported by the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) executed a systematic review and development of self-management strategy recommendations for those living with inflammatory arthritis.

Why it’s important: A key element of adjusting to and living with inflammatory arthritis is the ability to self-manage the physical and psychological challenges of the disease between clinic visits and beyond drug therapy. Although inflammatory arthritis self-management resources may be available, they are historically underused, complex, and/or not holistically incorporated into overall care plans. Furthermore, clinicians may not be well informed on how to best support their patients in implementing a self-management strategy, including how to access tools and resources that assist behavior and lifestyle changes. As a consequence, those living with inflammatory arthritis, who don’t incorporate self-management strategies into their care plan, may have a higher risk of developing comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease and psychological conditions, as well as demonstrating a lower quality of life. 

The details: The study task force executed an initial resource review, as well as a survey, that explored and evaluated the inflammatory arthritis interventions and self-management strategies currently available across Europe. The overarching goal of the task force was to formulate recommendations for best practice self-management strategy implementation, specifically: 

  • Develop EULAR recommendations for the implementation of effective self-management strategies facilitated by clinicians
  • Enable all members of the rheumatology multidisciplinary team (MDT) to support self-management in those living with inflammatory arthritis
  • Improve quality of life and disease outcomes in those living with inflammatory arthritis

And the outcomes are…

The task force developed three overarching principles and nine recommendations, all of which specifically aim to empower the patient to become an active partner within their care team. Key self-management strategy elements were highlighted, such as problem solving, goal setting, and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as ways patient organizations and clinicians can increase awareness about digital health resources that promote physical activity, lifestyle advice, and provide mental health support. Furthermore, the study highlighted that digital healthcare is an essential part of supporting and optimizing self-management for those living with inflammatory arthritis

The takeaway? Implementation of self-management strategies, resources, and advice — specifically those that aim to empower patients such as digital healthcare solutions — could result in improved patient experience of care, outcomes, and quality of life. 

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Source: Nikiphorou E, Santos EJF, Marques A, et al 2021 EULAR recommendations for the implementation of self-management strategies in patients with inflammatory arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2021;80:1278-1285. (PDF)