Digital Coaching Improves Health, Reduces Flares in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have many more treatment options thanks to recent advances, but patients’ health and well-being also requires self-management, such as lifestyle modifications to manage symptoms.

At the 2017 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a team proposed a 12-week, digital health coaching program with personalized support from a dedicated health coach to improve well-being and decrease symptoms for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Pack Health, a digital health coaching company in Birmingham, Alabama, studied the efficacy of a remote, behavior-modification program to help patients with rheumatoid arthritis reduce stressors related to their disease and make behavioral changes proven to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and improve well-being.

The company enrolled 127 patients with rheumatoid arthritis in a 12-week digital health coaching program, pairing each patient with a non-clinical health coach. Patient-coach dyads talked once a week by telephone, and coaches focused on patient engagement and behavior change.

The research team surveyed patients about their behaviors and condition at baseline and after 12 weeks of coaching. Patients’ mental and physical health was assessed with the PROMIS Global Health-10 survey, and patients self-reported the number of flares they experienced per month. Over the course of 12 weeks, participants experienced significant improvements, including:

  • An average decrease in body mass index of 0.55 kg/m2
  • An average increase in physical activity of 76 percent
  • An additional 0.3 hours more sleep per night on average
  • A 50 percent average reduction in the number of medication doses missed per week
  • Better scores on the PROMIS Global Health-10
    • A 13 percent increase on physical health domain
    • A 16 percent increase on the mental health domain.
  • A 50 percent drop in rheumatoid arthritis flare frequency.

“Often, patients with rheumatoid arthritis are overwhelmed, and they require both coaching and care coordination to improve their well-being. However, rheumatologists often lack the time, tools and training required to effectively coach patients in the office environment,” said Uma Srivastava, associate director of strategic partnerships at Pack Health. “This study shows that incorporating tools such as digital remote patient coaching into the workflow of clinicians can support better outcomes, patient experience and healthcare utilization. In turn, clinicians are able to overcome barriers such as time, cost and patient non-adherence to recommended care.”