Rheum Round-up: Telemedicine for Rheumatic Patients, Latino Patients and COVID-19, and more

Telemedicine has surged as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will likely be here to stay long after the pandemic subsides. Convenient for providers and all patients alike, skipping the in-person office visit in favor of a virtual encounter may also help keep some patients safer, especially those who are immunocompromised. However, the use and implementation of telemedicine may be a challenge for patients.

That’s where eRheum comes in. Seth D. Ginsberg, President and Co-Founder, CreakyJoints and the Global Healthy Living Foundation, described the telemedicine platform and its benefits for rheumatic patients in further detail during an interview with DocWire News. Ginsberg said, “eRheum is designed to help patients understand what virtual care is all about, why virtual care is important and when virtual care is appropriate. It’s done so in a very patient centered way, and it’s done so and designed to help patients and their families meet the provider halfway.”

In additional COVID-19/rheumatic news, a study has found that, among Latinos, those with rheumatic diseases have a greater risk for COVID-19 than Latinos without rheumatic disease.

Of 178 patients studied, 32 (18%) developed COVID-19. The rate of COVID-19 infection in Latino patients with rheumatic disease was three times as high as that of the general Latino population. No one was admitted to the intensive care unit. The researchers found that a BMI >30.35 kg/m2 increased the risk for COVID-19, and COVID-19 was a risk factor for flare-up of rheumatic disease.

Speaking of flare-ups, a study found that patients with preexisting autoimmune diseases (PADs) may experience exacerbations during immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) treatment, even with background immunosuppression. However, they noted these exacerbations tend to be mild. About half of patients in the study experienced disease exacerbations; 14% were severe. Flares necessitated corticosteroids, immunosuppression, and ICI discontinuation. Researchers noted a link between a history of more intensive immunosuppression and increased risk for exacerbations.

Who are the faces behind all of this rheumatic research? That’s what one study sought to determine—with disappointing results. Women are underrepresented as senior authors in rheumatology literature, these researchers found, although women are represented as first authors.

Rheumatology-centered journals such as Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Arthritis & Rheumatology, Rheumatology, Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, and others, as well as more general publications including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, JAMA Internal Medicine, and more were queried, yielding more than 7,600 articles. What did the study authors find? Women constituted roughly half of the first authors, but just over a third of senior authors.

The study authors called on “institutional and industry leaders to take steps to ensure that women are represented equally as the gender gap in the rheumatology workforce narrows in the future.”