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Arthritis Institute Internet Clinic

Monday, September 29, 2003 - 00:00

The Arthritis Institute Internet Clinic (AIIC) is an interactive web-based multidisciplinary clinic that will provide:

Innovative follow-up treatment to facilitate long-term maintenance; General education re: disease management strategies, and, Links to community resources to facilitate the discharge transition.

Development of the program was made possible through a grant of $82,500 from the Change Foundation with matching funds/resources from St. Joseph’s Health Care, London and the Lawson Health Research Institute.

The foundation awards up to $800,000 annually to charitable organizations undertaking projects that promote, support and improve health and the delivery of health care.

The need:
In assessing the needs of our patients, we found that over 40 per cent expressed a need for allied health treatment. The Rheumatology Day Program (RDP) was designed to meet this need.

Multidisciplinary treatment programs such as ours teach patients disease management strategies, which effectively reduce pain, disability levels and health care utilization, and improve psychosocial functioning. However, 50 per cent of arthritis patients are unable to maintain these treatment strategies, which include regular exercise, relaxation strategies and self-pacing of work and leisure activities to decrease stress on their joints. Despite the clear need, current hospital resources are unable to support frequent repetitive visits for follow-up care on a long-term basis. The internet clinic is a response that we hope will balance patients’ needs with available resources.

A survey of RDP patients found that 88 per cent expressed a need for long-term follow-up to facilitate long-term maintenance and 77 per cent were interested in web-based follow-up treatment resources; 62 per cent have computer access at home; 10 per cent access the Internet at public libraries, and 28 per cent had no access. For patients without home internet access, the clinic will be providing a list of accessible public computers in their area.
24-hour access to information and advice related to management of arthritic conditions and their symptoms, such as chronic pain;
Interactive on-line problem-solving for preventing treatment relapse;
Scheduled ‘live’ access to a psychologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, social worker, etc specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and rheumatological disorders;
Design is easy to use, especially for arthritis patients with limited hand functioning, and features familiar places and faces to look like an extension of the clinic; patients say it “looks familiar and comforting”

An experimental form of treatment follow-up services for clinic patients:
Use of web technology to provide patient education to address relapse prevention for disease management;

To the patient: Improved continuum of care through increased access to patient education, follow-up treatment and community/support services close to home; Improved disease management – for improved quality of life and decreased health care costs

To the health care system: Less dependency on one-on-one care by health care providers; Cost-effective follow-up system; Improved capacity to prevent relapse post-discharge via the web; improved services for patients with arthritis

Future plans
Phase 2 of the program, set to launch in the spring of 2004, will expand the AIIC to include web resources available to the general population, including education regarding rheumatological disorders, general disease management tips and links to community resources.

Source: St. Joseph's Health Care

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