Digital Health Technologies: The Future of Rheumatology Care

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With the increase in remote monitoring of patients and the provision of telemedicine services during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the role of digital health in medicine, as wearables, electronic health records, sensors, apps, and other technologies, has come to the forefront.

Especially in chronic care like rheumatology, the advent of digital health innovations and the digitization of healthcare has created new avenues for both clinicians and patients toward more efficient disease management and, in turn, potentially better health outcomes.

Our featured guests are W. Benjamin Nowell, PhD, MSW, director of patient-centered research at Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF) and CreakyJoints®, and Jeffrey Curtis, MD, MS, MPH, professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Featured Guests

Benjamin Nowell, PhD, MSW, is the director of patient-centered research at Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF) and CreakyJoints® and the principal investigator of ArthritisPower™ Patient-Powered Research Network. Ben leads all research activities conducted by the organization, including facilitating studies conducted with academic and industry partners.

His research interests include examination of the factors that facilitate patient engagement and adherence to providing digital health measures, use of wearable devices in the measurement of disease activity, patient-reported outcomes, and shared decision making in rheumatologic conditions.

Before joining GHLF, Ben worked as a medical social worker and community and long-term care coordinator for the Ottawa Regional Stroke Centre and as a research coordinator for an evaluation of participant outcomes in Arthritis Foundation chronic disease self-management programs for arthritis.

Jeffrey Curtis, MD, MS, MPH, is a professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He received a medical degree and a Master of Public Health degree from Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland, where he subsequently completed a residency in internal medicine. He then pursued a fellowship in rheumatology at UAB. Dr Curtis completed a graduate program in clinical informatics at Stanford University and received a Master of Science degree in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is board certified in both rheumatology and clinical informatics.

Dr Curtis holds the Harbert-Ball Endowed Professorship in Rheumatology and Immunology at UAB. His major research emphasis is on evaluating the safety and comparative effectiveness of medications for rheumatic diseases. Dr Curtis also conducts both investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored clinical trials in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA), including large pragmatic trials. He is also the co-director of the UAB Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics Research unit.

In 2012, Dr Curtis was awarded the Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and was accepted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2016. In 2015, he was appointed as a member to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Arthritis Advisory Committee. Dr Curtis served on the core expert panel for the ACR’s 2008, 2012, and 2015 recommendations for the use of nonbiologic and biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs in RA. He was the deputy director for a collaborative project between the FDA, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and a number of academic centers studying the safety of biologic agents using multiple, pooled national data sources.

Dr Curtis is the co-principal investigator of the mobile health-based, PCORI-funded Patient Powered Research Network “ArthritisPower” registry, focused on RA, psoriasis, PsA, and spondyloarthritis. He is the co-principal investigator of the UAB Coordinating Center of the ACR electronic health record-based registry, Rheumatology Informatics System for Effectiveness.

Dr Curtis also leads the multicenter National Institute of Health (NIH)-funded large pragmatic randomized controlled trial “VERVE” studying the safety and effectiveness of the live herpes zoster vaccine in patients receiving biologic agents. He was appointed a member of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Herpes Zoster workgroup. Dr Curtis also studies risk factors and outcomes of osteoporosis. He was a member of the ACR’s taskforce to update recommendations for the management of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis, and served on the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) taskforce on atypical subtrochanteric and diaphyseal fractures.

Dr Curtis has authored more than 500 peer-reviewed manuscripts, review articles, and book chapters.