Purpose of review
In early 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic shifted most healthcare to remote delivery methods to protect patients, clinicians, and hospital staff. Such remote care delivery methods include the use of telehealth technologies including clinical video telehealth or telephone visits. Prior to this, research on the acceptability, feasibility, and efficacy of telehealth applied to rheumatology, or telerheumatology, has been limited.
Telerheumatology visits were found to be noninferior to in-person visits and are often more time and cost effective for patients. Clinicians and patients both noted the lack of a physical exam in telehealth visits and patients missed the opportunity to have lab work done or other diagnostic tests they are afforded with in-person visits. Overall, patients and clinicians had positive attitudes toward the use of telerheumatology and agreed on its usefulness, even beyond the pandemic.
Although telerheumatology has the potential to expand the reach of rheumatology practice, some of the most vulnerable patients still lack the most basic resources required for a telehealth visit. As the literature on telerheumatology continues to expand, attention should be paid to health equity, the digital divide, as well as patient preferences in order to foster true shared decision-making over telehealth.