Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis: Role of Remote Care Management

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by Lucy Lamboley

Arthritis is probably one of the most bothersome health issues patients face. Classified as both degenerative and chronic, arthritis not only produces pain, but it can also increase symptoms of anxiety and depression, impact independence, contribute to sleep problems, and lead to a host of other chronic health issues due to neglectful self-management of the disorder. Fortunately, those with the two most common types of arthritis — osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis — are eligible for participation in both chronic care management (CCM) and remote patient monitoring (RPM) services. These services can be quality-of-life difference-makers for those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

With the wraparound care provided via the CCM and RPM care models, arthritis patients will receive the connected support they need to better manage symptoms and slow disease progression. Specifically, participation in these types of programs will help patients improve their self-management and coping skills. This can lead to decreased pain and physical harm, helping arthritis patients maintain — or even increase — activity levels and better preserve their independent lifestyle. 

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis Quick Facts 

Before we discuss the roles CCM and RPM play in helping those with arthritis, let's first briefly talk about the two types of arthritis we'll be focusing on. Note: If the concepts of CCM and RPM are unfamiliar, we suggest reviewing this article that defines chronic care management and this article that defines remote patient monitoring. 

Sometimes abbreviated as OA, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by general wear and tear on the joints. It is estimated to affect more than 32 million U.S. adults. Particularly common in older people, osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that is exacerbated by infection and/or injury. The disease causes chronic pain that can become worse in fluctuating weather temperatures, performing unusual activities, or being too sedentary.  

Rheumatoid Arthritis  
Sometimes abbreviated RA, rheumatoid arthritis is more aggressive and degenerative than osteoarthritis. The disease is estimated to affect more than 1.3 million people in the U.S. It's 2.5 times more common in people designated female at birth than those designated males at birth. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks the synovial membrane lining of one's joints. It breaks down the cartilage within a joint causing the patient increased chronic pain from stiffness, inflammation, and deformities.  

Arthritis Management With CCM: Benefits of Care Coordination   

Chronic care management can positively impact the healthy longevity of arthritis patients in myriad ways. Since the service provides the patient with a network of support, they are not alone in managing their chronic disease. Let’s look at three ways CCM benefits patients with arthritis, specifically impacting the patient in the following ways: 

Connections that emphasize the importance of physical activity  

While many patients with arthritis think they can find pain relief by moving less and resting more, we know this isn't true, and declines in mobility will only make matters more difficult for these patients. Chronic care management coordinators can help ensure arthritis patients are connected to community resources that promote low-impact physical activity, such as gyms, swimming pools, and group or individual exercise classes. With the help of CCM coordinators, patients can better navigate social determinants of health (SDoH) barriers such as cost, location, and transportation to better ensure they are remaining active and maintaining their mobility for as long as possible. 

Address and remove functional limitation barriers 

Eventually, for patients with arthritis, functional limitations start presenting as decreased joint mobility and increased pain. Working together, the provider, CCM coordinators, and the patient can work as a team to develop a comprehensive care plan for effective symptom management. This helps the patient adapt to life with their disease rather than fall victim to it. CCM participation allows care managers to connect and coordinate resources for the patient, such as specialist appointments and medications, and help them access assistive devices to help improve mobility and overall everyday quality of life and mobility 

Maintaining independence 

With CCM, it is the job of care coordinators to help patients adapt to their chronic disease(s) so they can continue living as normal of a life as possible. Such efforts might take the form of helping patients find affordable tools that support independence. The current market for assistive devices is vast and creative, making it easier for patients to do accomplish everyday tasks like opening jars, gripping writing utensils, holding on to eating utensils, and opening the gas cap on their car.  

When patients require more than assistive devices, chronic care management coordinators can help connect patients with the home health or caregiver programs designed to support help meet some of the patient's everyday needs while allowing them to remain home and more independent.  

Arthritis Management With RPM: Importance of Monitoring Grip Strength  

The hands play an integral role in the disposition of our entire body and overall health. Consequently, the strength of one's grip is an important biomarker and can help pinpoint the functionality or breakdown of other areas of the human body, such as overall strength and upper limb function, bone mineral density, cognitive impairment, diabetes, and malnutrition. Grip strength can even correlate to other oncoming issues like decreasing mobility or the ability to walk fast or far distances.  

Incorporating grip strength monitoring into a remote care management program can be accomplished with the use of a dynamometer for remote patient monitoring. The benefits of incorporating such a device into the care plan of an RPM and/or CCM patient with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are many, including tracking disease progression and helping identify which treatments are working well and which ones are not. 

While hand dynamometers have always been a well-liked tool in the occupational and physical therapy settings of healthcare, they can now be a dynamic resource utilized in primary care. Like other RPM solutions, cellular- or Bluetooth-connected digital hand dynamometers can enhance patient evaluation and provide the practitioner with ongoing feedback about a patient's continued functionality and disease progression. It's best to pair such RPM devices with a remote patient monitoring system like Prevounce that can collect and interpret pertinent patient data as well as support timely, compliant RPM coding, billing, and documentation. 

Promoting Patient Wellness With the Right Arthritis Care 

Arthritis is a lifelong diagnosis, but that doesn't mean a life spent in constant pain and discomfort. Enrolling arthritis patients into remote care management programs like chronic care management and remote patient monitoring will provide patients with an opportunity to interact at a more meaningful level with their healthcare team and promote better engagement and personal responsibility over their care and treatment. With properly assisted self-management of symptoms, patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can remain productive and independent for many years to come, making CCM and RPM services a win for patients and providers alike. 

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