Mobile phone monitoring in people with rheumatoid arthritis increases the likelihood that patients will follow treatment.

A study presented at the American College of Rheumatology meeting in Washington DC highlights previous analyses which suggest that repeatedly monitoring RA symptoms and treatments will improve the disease and patient quality of life. However, limited resources impact the availability of regular doctor visits and prevent close monitoring for the disease.

In respond to this situation, Finnish rheumatologists led by Kari Puolakka at Lappeenranta Central Hospital developed an automatic mobile-phone based monitoring system, called SandRA. In the trial, 137 patients were sent text messages every two weeks for six months and participants were advised to answer each question by pushing one button for yes or no. Questions included, “have you used the prescribed drug treatments?” and “have you experienced any problems with the drug?”.

In a case of an answer that indicated a problem with medications or too high disease activity, SandRA sent an alarm e-mail to the treating rheumatology clinic, which then contacted the patient and adjusted medication or arranged an earlier visit if needed. At the end of the study, roughly two-thirds of the patients achieved treatment targets.

Dr Puolakka said that these preliminary results "suggest that by utilising a simple technical device which almost everyone has, communicating automatically with software, helps us identify patients with early RA who have problems with medications". He added that "we can also pick out those patients, who are not likely to reach remission, for re-assessment and treat them more effectively".