Assessment of the utility of visual feedback in the treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis patients: a pilot study

Y El Miedany, M El Gaafary, D Palmer
Rheumatology International 2012, 32 (10): 3061-8
Earlier studies revealed that visual feedback has contributed in the management of neuromuscular as well as psychiatric disorders; however, it has not yet been applied in rheumatology. Visual feedback is a relatively new tool that enables the patient to visualize as well as monitor a real-time change of their disease activity parameters as well as the patient's reported outcome measures. Integrating electronic data recording in the standard rheumatology clinical practice made visual feedback possible. To evaluate the feasibility of using the visual feedback in patients with early inflammatory arthritis (EA) and how ubiquitous computing technology can improve the patients' compliance and adherence to therapy, this was a double-blind randomized controlled study, which included 111 patients diagnosed to have EA according to the new ACR/EULAR criteria. All patients received disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) therapy and monitored regularly over the period of 1 year. By the 6th month of treatment, the patients were randomly allocated to an active group (55 patients) to whom the visual feedback (visualization of charts showing the progression of disease activity parameters) was added to their management protocol, and a control group (56 patients) who continued their standard management protocols. The patients were monitored for another 6-months period. All the patient's disease activity parameters, patient reported outcome measures (PROMs), medications, scores of falls, and cardiovascular risks were recorded electronically. Primary outcome was the change in the patients' adherence to their medications, disease activity score (DAS-28), and PROMs: pain score, patient global assessment, functional disability, and quality of life. Secondary outcome was the answers to a questionnaire completed by every patient in both the active group and control group (using Visual Analogue Scale) by the end of 1 year of management, to rate from the patient's perspective the impact of the management protocol, whether using the standard or visual feedback approach, on them and their disease. The visual feedback provided a significant greater reduction in disease activity parameters as well as improvement of the patients' adherence to antirheumatic therapy (P < 0.01). Also stopping the DMARDs therapy because of intolerance was significantly less in the active group. Concerns about the future was significantly less in the active group whereas inability to coup with daily life and disease stress were significantly more among the control group. The improvement of disease activity parameters was associated with improvement in functional disability and quality of life scores. Mean changes in disease parameters showed no significant differences at 3-6 months of therapy but differences were statistically significant at 12-months follow-up (P < 0.01). Medication compliance was significantly correlated with changes in all measured disease parameters. By recording and monitoring disease activity parameters electronically and incorporating the visual feedback approach into clinical practice, a new experience can be created. Visual feedback enabled the patients to see how they are doing regarding their disease activity and helps to optimize their adherence to their treatment. Visual feedback had a positive and significant impact on the disease activity control.

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