Telemedicine was proposed for improving the access to care in rheumatology, however, only a few studies of tele‐rheumatology have been published. The objective of this study was to evaluate quality of care and outcomes for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in patients in‐person follow-up compared to be seen by video telemedicine only. Participants involved in the Alaska Tribal Health System with RA diagnosis were recruited when seeing a rheumatologist either by video telemedicine or in‐person, both of which were offered as part of usual follow‐up care.
At the 12‐month outcome assessment, 63 of 122 RA patients (52%) had ever used telemedicine for RA. In the univariate analysis, the functional status improved significantly over the course of a year in the telemedicine group. In multivariate analysis, RAPID3 and functional status were associated with the telemedicine group (higher), with no statistically significant change over the 12 months. The only quality measure in univariate analysis, that differed between groups at one year, was the proportion of visits in which disease activity was documented (higher in the in‐person group, 40% vs. 25%), but this was not significant after multivariate analysis.
In a short‐term follow‐up, there was no significant difference in most outcome and quality measures in patients with RA who incorporated telemedicine follow‐up in their care compared to in‐person only.