Autoimmun Rev. 2021 Jun 9:102864. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2021.102864. Online ahead of print.
The past decade has seen tremendous development in digital health, including in innovative new technologies such as Electronic Health Records, telemedicine, virtual visits, wearable technology and sophisticated analytical tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for the deep-integration of big data. In the field of rare connective tissue diseases (rCTDs), these opportunities include increased access to scarce and remote expertise, improved patient monitoring, increased participation and therapeutic adherence, better patient outcomes and patient empowerment. In this review, we discuss opportunities and key-barriers to improve application of digital health technologies in the field of autoimmune diseases. We also describe what could be the fully digital pathway of rCTD patients. Smart technologies can be used to provide real-world evidence about the natural history of rCTDs, to determine real-life drug utilization, advanced efficacy and safety data for rare diseases and highlight significant unmet needs. Yet, digitalization remains one of the most challenging issues faced by rCTD patients, their physicians and healthcare systems. Digital health technologies offer enormous potential to improve autoimmune rCTD care but this potential has so far been largely unrealized due to those significant obstacles. The need for robust assessments of the efficacy, affordability and scalability of AI in the context of digital health is crucial to improve the care of patients with rare autoimmune diseases.