Using Digital Health in Your Arthritis Management Plan

Meeting with a health care professional will always be an important part of good health care, but adding digital health tools into the mix is becoming more and more common. That’s often a good thing, because digital health has a lot to offer people living with arthritis. It means using information technology and electronic communication services, tools, and processes to deliver health care services or to help pave the way to better health. Digital health is in the spotlight from November 12-18 during Digital Health Week, but its benefits extend all year round. Here’s what you need to know.

What digital health services are available in Canada?

Digital health services may depend on which province or territory you live in and what your health care provider offers. Other digital health services are online tools and resources that you can access anywhere from your smartphone, tablet or home computer.

You may be able to view lab results or see your medical information online or through an app, including your medical history. E-booking is another option, where you can schedule your medical appointments online.

Telehomecare is the digital version of home visits, to help you manage your own health at home when you have a chronic condition like arthritis. For example, a nurse may check in with you and monitor your health status, offering health coaching and education and keeping your primary care provider in the loop. Or, you may be able to schedule a “telehealth” or “virtual visit” with a health care provider, often a specialist, through secure videoconferencing, where you and the health care provider can see each other on a video screen at a health centre near you, or from the privacy of your own home.

Mental health is another area that has digital options. For example, you can use a particular website or app to find self-guided or partially self-guided services for people living with depression, social anxiety disorder, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes living with arthritis can take a toll on mental health, so online services may be a useful option.

What are the benefits of digital health?

Consider these advantages: 

Collaboration Digital health care records mean that both you and your health care providers can have access to the same information, like medications, lab results and x-rays. That in turn can give you confidence and a feeling of empowerment, because you’re an informed member of the team that’s responsible for your health care. If you are seeing multiple healthcare professionals to help manage your arthritis or co-existing conditions, digital health records can help ensure everyone is aware of your treatment.

Emergency access Should you need to visit the emergency room or get assistance from a first responder, digital health gives health care providers who aren’t familiar with your medical history access to details about factors like medications and allergies.

Chronic condition management Digital apps and portals can help you track your condition more closely and take a more active role in your health care. There are a number of arthritis apps available that can help you track your symptoms and medications, as well as offer important information about arthritis and self-management tips.

Better information Access to your complete health records allows your health care provider to make an informed diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that works for you.

Correct and convenient Having online access to your lab results, for example, means wait times are cut down. Using secure e-prescription systems has also been shown to improve patient safety and quality care.

Less travel time Videoconferencing means you can consult a specialist or another health care provider from a health centre much closer to home, rather than travelling to another city or province, especially if you live in a remote or rural area.

How do I access digital health tools?

Visit www.betterhealthtogether.ca to find services in your province or territory, as well as information about federal programs.

For arthritis-specific digital tools, you’ve got some great choices!

Symptom Checker After answering the short questions in this online tool, you can download your answers or have them emailed to you to take to your next health care appointment.

Online Modules These free online mini-courses are packed with helpful tips and information about topics like managing chronic pain, arthritis at work, your relationship with your health care provider, your mental health and well-being, and overcoming fatigue.

Self-Advocacy Guide This useful online guide gives you strategies and information to advocate for yourself and your needs when it comes to arthritis care.

Medication Reference Guide In this easy-to-use online tool, you can learn more about the wide variety of medications available to treat arthritis so you can make informed decisions with your health care provider about your treatment plan.

Webcasts Through arthritis.ca you can participate in Arthritis Forum seminars about a variety of topics, like treating inflammatory arthritis, therapeutic yoga or how to change your diet. You can watch a live seminar on your computer or device, and submit questions to the guest speakers through the web platform. Or you can watch archived webinars on your own time, also via your computer.

Managing your arthritis care plan usually requires a few different approaches to suit you and your lifestyle. Check out what digital health resources are available to you to see if any of the tools can make your arthritis care easier to plan, navigate and track.

Plus: Test your knowledge! Take our quiz to find out what you know about digital health.

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