SAN DIEGO — Consultation with rheumatologist via a novel, mobile application demonstrated significant health care cost savings for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and encouraged more efficient disease management, according to findings presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting.
Fei Xiao, MD, CEO of Cinkate Corporation and a lead author of the study, presented findings for the Smart System of Disease Management. He described it as a series of applications based on clinical data that include a consultation tool that patients may use from their mobile phones.
“Using this app, patients are able to participate in their own care,” he said.
During a press conference at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting, Fei Xiao, MD, noted that medical consultation via this mobile app saved approximately six-times the patient cost of care.
The current study included information from 403 rheumatologists who provided researchers with data for 4,002 patients. The cohort was 42% patients with RA, 21% with systemic lupus erythematosus, 11% with ankylosing spondylitis, 10% with gout, 5% with osteoarthritis, 3% with Sjögren’s syndrome and 7% with other rheumatic diseases.
Data were collected from February 2015 through June 2017 and included 293 consultations and 3,709 paid consultations. Of the paid consultations, 3,983 were text question-and-answer exchanges, while 19 were conducted using voice communications.
Patients paid a range of RMB 10 to 500 yuan (exchange rate, 1 U.S. dollar = 6.81 renminbi [RMB]) for consultations. Each consultation averaged 96.06 ± 38.61 yuan, which the researchers noted matched hospital registration fees. Consultation fees totaled 477,960 yuan RMB.
Xiao added that the app “encourages physicians to take pictures of patients to upload to a group network, building a network of knowledge.”
Another finding showed 35.3% of the cohort that received consultations online were located in a different city than the rheumatologist. Xiao noted that seeking care in a hospital carried an overall cost of 565.17 ± 510.49 yuan, which included registration fees, medical expenses, transportation, accommodation and food costs, in addition to lost wages from work. When these cost for all patients were tallied, the total would have been 3,157,220 yuan RMB. This total cost was 6.61-times higher than would have been incurred via online consultation. Another way of reporting this figure is to say the app could save 84.86% of patient costs.
“The mobile app platform saved six-times the cost of care,” Xiao said.
Results of a patient survey indicated that all patients reported satisfaction, while 66.35 noted the online consultations left them “very satisfied.”
“Good disease management is better than medicine,” Xiao said. —by Rob Volansky
Xiao F, et al. Abstract 928. Presented at: American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting; Nov. 4-8, 2017; San Diego.
Disclosures: Xiao reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for a complete list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.