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A recent article published in Rheumatology by Melanie Sloan and colleagues at the University of Cambridge surveyed patient and clinician perceptions of telemedicine in rheumatology.


Conducted during the widespread use of telemedicine during the pandemic, the respondents included more than 1000 patients, primarily with inflammatory arthritis or lupus, and more than 100 clinicians.


Both patients and clinicians rated telemedicine worse than face-to-face in almost all categories; but more than 60% found it more convenient. Major concerns included building trusting relationships and assessment accuracy.


Commenting on the results, BSR President Dr Sanjeev Patel explained: “Remote consultations aren’t a substitute for face-to-face hands-on examinations, particularly with some rheumatology conditions, uncertain diagnosis and where complex discussion are needed. But they have an important role to play; improving accessibility, being able to see patients quickly and effectively managing stable patients are all benefits we’ve experienced.”


He added: “What started as remote by default must be replaced with a balanced way of working. We don’t want to lose the progress made with digital innovations, but systems and processes must be put in place to support patients and clinicians to make the best decisions with flexible access to both remote and face-to-face consultations.


"We must avoid arbitrary targets for face-to-face consultations and respect requests from patients for their preferred appointment type.”


Full survey results