Currently, close to 6,000 clinical trials investigating rheumatologic disorders are registered with ClinicalTrials.gov. This number demonstrates only a sample of the extensive clinical trial data available for rheumatologists to understand and potentially apply to patient care. Finding time to keep up with the wealth of clinical trial results can be a challenge for busy rheumatologists.
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Explore This IssueJuly 2018
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Online options, including continuing medical education (CME) and notifications of new trial data via social media services, are proving effective ways to help rheumatologists stay informed.
Social Media Alerts
“Accessing medical information online is really the only way that I take in [practice] information,” shares Paul Sufka, MD, a rheumatologist with HealthPartners in St. Paul, Minn., and a member of the ACR’s Committee on Communications & Marketing.
Dr. Sufka says he has constructed a list of thought leaders in rheumatology who he follows regularly on Twitter and who post about interesting, recent studies in the specialty.
“I generally check my Twitter feed at least one or two times per day for at least a few minutes, which is enough time to ensure I’m not missing out on a major developing topic,” Dr. Sufka explains. “If I find something that I don’t have time to really dig into at that moment, I generally save the link and read it later.”
To organize this information for future access, Dr. Sufka uses a software program that stores published studies as PDFs. He can tag the PDFs by topic for search and access them on a mobile device.
Make the Most of Online CME
Twitter and other social media services, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are also vehicles for rheumatologists to share CME opportunities, according to Piyali Chatterjee, senior director of medical education for Medscape Education in New York.
She says one key benefit of online CME is that rheumatologists can access it when the time is right and revisit aspects of a CME program to ensure retention. This platform is proving effective according to a 2017 study Ms. Chatterjee coauthored, which was presented at the 2017 ACR/AHRP Annual Meeting.1
The study investigated how rheumatologists taking part in an online educational intervention improved their knowledge and awareness of emerging trial results on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The education consisted of three video-based expert discussions covering trial outcomes and associated clinical implications. The educational effect was assessed with repeated pairs pre-assessment/post-assessment study design in which individual participants served as their own control.
Increased knowledge of the clinical trial data presented was found in three key measures (all P<.05):
- A 25% increase in rheumatologists who identified the trial design of an open-label extension of a trial presented regarding the three-year efficacy of a specific IL-6 inhibitor;
- A 36% increase in rheumatologists who recognized the association between different types of disease flare and progression of joint damage as reported in a post hoc analysis of one trial; and
- A 31% increase in rheumatologists who identified tumor necrosis factor alpha therapy allowed patients to reduce or discontinue methotrexate or corticosteroid therapy as reported in a 10-year, open-label extension discussed in two trials.
“These results show just how important online education can be to rheumatologists seeking curated and timely knowledge that can directly impact the quality of patient care,” Ms. Chatterjee shares. “One other important benefit with online education is that it allows us to truly measure learning impact through assessment so we can understand how to tailor future education.”
She says rheumatologists choosing online education should be strategic to ensure the educational activity aligns with specific needs to improve gaps in knowledge, whether it is clinical data, diagnoses or individualizing treatment based on patient types, especially with biologics and other rapidly evolving treatment areas.
Where to Look
In addition to such sources as Medscape Education, healthcare organizations, such as the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, leverage online education through their Rheumatology Rounds Online, sharing research and unique cases with a wider audience.
The ACR/ARHP offers online CME activities and other non-CME online educational activities, such as ACR Beyond, which is the ACR’s online streaming service updated monthly with education from ACR/ARHP meetings, such as scientific sessions, abstracts and lectures.
Clinical trial data presented at the ACR/ARHP Annual Meetings and other meetings, such as the ACR’s Pediatric Rheumatology Symposium, are also available online through an archive. This archive can be searched by topic, investigator or title. This September, abstracts for clinical trial data and other research presented at the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting Oct. 19–24 in Chicago will be available online.
Carina Stanton is a freelance science journalist in Denver.
- Jackson E, Chatterjee-Shin P. Improving knowledge of rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial results among rheumatologists: Effect of an online educational intervention [abstract]. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017;69(suppl 10).