People with rheumatic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, often find it hard to get the support they need to look after all aspects of their health. It can take a lot of time, energy and money to be as well as possible. For some, it’s almost a full-time job.
Most of us see our GP and rheumatologist regularly, yet allied health professionals can also play a big role in helping us feel and move better. An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist can help you learn ways to move and strengthen your body, reduce stress on your joints and relieve your pain. A dietitian can show you how to establish a nutritious menu plan that works with and not against your conditions and medications.
Other allied health professionals that can support you include occupational therapists, podiatrists, osteopaths and chiropractors.
(Learn more about different types of allied health professionals on our Choosing Your Healthcare Team page.)
One of the biggest challenges for people with chronic health issues is getting regular access to a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Lockdowns create a big barrier to face-to-face access, but other factors have often created barriers to care as well. For example:
- Fatigue, pain or mobility issues can make it difficult for you to travel to appointments.
- You may live in an area that doesn’t have a wide range of health services available locally.
- You may find the cost of visiting multiple healthcare providers is prohibitive.
Access Rheumatology and Allied Health Support Online
The BJC Health Connected Care Rheumatology Centre in Sydney has long recognised that the way forward in improving the treatment of acute and chronic arthritis would involve a coordinated, comprehensive service that no one doctor or allied health professional could reasonably provide.
The BJC Health team includes rheumatologists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, a dietitian and other related health professionals. Their main objective has always been to treat the whole person, not just the site of pain.
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to lockdowns around the world in 2020, the team realised they needed to help their clients maintain access to their healthcare team so they started offering online services. This not only included telehealth appointments, it also included access to exercise classes via Facebook and Zoom.
These classes became so popular that BJC Health decided to continue offering them alongside their face-to-face classes. The team also began regular lifestyle webinars full of practical information and tips for managing rheumatic conditions. Now, the online aspect of their clinic has grown so much that they have opened it up to all Australians with rheumatic conditions.
The new BJC Connect platform allows members the chance to access a range of general health resources, lifestyle events, small group workshops and exercise classes online.
To access BJC Connect, you simply need to sign up for a free basic membership. This has been created to complement the consultations you might be having with your existing rheumatologist and allied health providers. Basic membership includes access to:
- An extensive resource library including links to support groups, ebooks, videos and recipes.
- Unlimited live and recorded educational lifestyle webinars for patients.
- 10 free small group workshops with curated content run by various BJC Connect team members.
- A one-week trial of the Exercise Anywhere program.
There are multiple small group workshops each week. They incorporate Q&A time and are focused on practical strategies to help you live and feel better. General topics include:
- Healthy eating and weight loss
- Helping you move better and be more active
- Chronic pain and fatigue
You can also choose from over 40 online guided exercise classes each week (with pilates and yoga offerings) via the Exercise Anywhere program. All sessions are run by accredited exercise physiologists who are experts in helping those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. As the sessions are conducted via Zoom, you can choose to have your camera on. This allows the instructor to see how you are moving and to share tips and encouragement with you.
If you want ongoing access to the Exercise Anywhere program or the small group workshops, you upgrade your membership to one of the paid plans on offer.
As mentioned above, these online services are designed to complement the services you currently receive from your healthcare team. The BJC Connect platform is there to help you keep moving when you’re stuck at home or you need additional health support. Information is power and the more you know about your condition and utilise the people and resources around you, the easier your life will be.
Note: CreakyJoints Australia and the author of this article have not received any payment for sharing information about BJC Health Connected Care or the BJC Connect platform.