Management of the early and late presentations of rheumatoid arthritis: A survey of Ontario primary care physicians

Richard H. Glazier, Dawn M. Dalby, Elizabeth M. Badley, Gillian A. Hawker, Mary J. Bell, Rachelle Buchbinder, Sydney C. Lineker

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Objective: To examine primary care physicians' management of rheumatoid arthritis, ascertain the determinants of management and compare management with that recommended by a current practice panel. Design: Mail survey (self-administered questionnaire). Setting: Ontario. Participants: A stratified computer-generated random sample of 798 members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Outcome measures: Proportions of respondents who chose various items in the management of two hypothetical patients, one with early rheumatoid arthritis and one with late rheumatoid arthritis. Scores for investigations, interventions and referrals for each scenario were generated by summing the recommended items chosen by respondents and then dividing by the total number of items recommended in that category. The scores were examined for their association with physician and practice characteristics and physician attitudes. Results: The response rate was 68.3% (529/775 eligible physicians). Recommended investigations were chosen by more than two thirds of the respondents for both scenarios. Referrals to physiotherapy, occupational therapy and rheumatology, all recommended by the panel, were chosen by 206 (38.9%), 72 (13.6%) and 309 (58.4%) physicians respectively for early rheumatoid arthritis. These proportions were significantly higher for late rheumatoid arthritis (p < 0.01). In multiple regression analysis, for early rheumatoid arthritis, internship or residency training in rheumatology was associated with higher investigation and intervention scores; for late rheumatoid arthritis, older physicians had higher intervention scores and female physicians had higher referral scores. Conclusions: Primary care physicians' investigation of rheumatoid arthritis was in accord with panel recommendations. However, rates of referral to rheumatologists and other health care professionals were very low, especially for the early presentation of rheumatoid arthritis. More exposure to rheumatology and to the role of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work during primary care training is strongly recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-687
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 1996

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