Smartphone Apps Can Help Track Disease Activity in Rheumatoid Arthritis

While the value of these tools is clear, their use may involve a learning curve for patients and physicians. “The physician who knows the typical measures used in these apps — such as the RAPID3, for example — will like them because they bring the data already completed,” explained Dr Ogdie-Beatty. 

However, she notes that physicians need to be comfortable using the electronic medical record, which some older physicians may find challenging after many years of writing notes. 

“Regardless, using these tools is about changing the flow of your practice just a little. The value is that patients generally really like them.” A 2015 cross-sectional study found that 86% of RA patients surveyed believed a self-management app would be useful, and 82% of them were willing to pay for it.6

One benefit of the apps is that they enable physicians to detect and explore similarities and discrepancies between objective and subjective data. “As a physician, I can sit in front of a patient and say, ‘You’re telling me you feel better and your functional scores have also been improving, so I think this therapy is working well,’” she explained. 

“Alternatively, I may also say, ‘You’re telling me you’re feeling okay, but your scores have worsened. Can you tell me more about why that may be?’” Another advantage is that electronic assessments are completed before patients arrive for clinic visits, negating the need for patients to fill them out at the time of the visit.

As mobile technology continues to be integrated into the flow of daily life, self-management tools like smartphone apps will become more commonplace in medical care. While they show initial promise, Dr Ogdie points to the need for more data about their value: “Does this change care? Does it change treatment? Additionally, does this optimize patient satisfaction and care efficiency? We think so but objective data are needed.”

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