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ACR News: Bridging global gaps in arthritis care

ACR Annual Meeting BannerAt the 2017 American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) / Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP) Annual Meeting, ACE presented a poster on a global survey – “Patient Experiences of Rheumatoid Arthritis Models of Care: An International Survey” – conducted by the Global RA Network – made up of ACE and 20 other patient advocacy groups - designed to gather insights on RA models of care from the patient perspective, as well as probing their knowledge about the disease and available treatments.

The survey revealed the urgent need to improve RA models of care at every stage of the disease awareness, treatment and care journey. One of the key findings was the need for more information and education on rheumatoid arthritis for patients and the public is needed to support people with the disease. Specifically, to help them best describe their symptoms and help them take shared decisions with their rheumatologists.

At the ACR annual meeting, a panel on bridging global gaps in arthritis care looked specifically at ways to improve care for patients living in underserved areas.

E. Michael Lewiecki, MD, shared information about a telemonitoring program developed by his team at the University of New Mexico to address the shortage of rheumatologists and difficulties for healthcare providers to reach patients outside of urban centres, which is an issue in Canada and throughout the world. As part of the initiative, healthcare professionals from around the world participate in weekly teleconferencing sessions to discuss patient cases and learn best practices.

Also during the panel, Jennifer Barton, MD, Associate Professor at Oregon Health & Science University, discussed strategies for delivering high quality care across language and cultural barriers.

“With more and more diversity in our populations, we may encounter multiple languages and cultures everyday in the clinic,” said Barton. “As rheumatologist, communication is integral to what we do. We need to elicit symptoms, preferences, and values from our patients and we need to be able to educate them about their diseases and their medications and have conversations about treatment decisions.”

The Global RA Network survey, which ACE helped lead, has shown that patients with barriers to communication are among the groups that have poorer outcomes and experience disparities in models of care.

Dr. Barton described techniques and tools to overcome these barriers and promote patient education and shared decision making between healthcare providers and arthritis patients who have limited English language proficiency.

Barton said: “We have a responsibility as rheumatologists to ensure good quality communication, to use tools that are available to us to promote shared decision making. Just because there are barriers, that doesn’t mean that we can’t deliver high quality care for these groups that are most vulnerable to poor outcomes.” Please visit the Global RA Network to learn more about RA patient experiences with models of care.