“If you tell people they’re at increased risk and why they’re at increased risk, then they’re encouraged to change their behavior to reduce their risk,” Dr. Raza said.
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Explore This IssueSeptember 2018
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Even with advances in identifying those at increased risk of moving from an early phase to full-blown RA, these advances can’t be put to use if patients aren’t seen. But the problem of general practitioner referral is a massive one, because so many patients making a visit to a GP report issues with joints. Half of them, for example, report joint stiffness.
National surveys in the United Kingdom have found that only a fraction of GPs will refer a patient to a rheumatologist immediately even if they suspect RA—with many performing initial tests to inform their referral decision, Dr. Raza said.
Online tools meant to sharpen the ability of GPs to more accurately assess the RA risk are being developed, but Dr. Raza cautioned that they are only as good as the algorithms that underlie them. He said he is encouraged by the amount of work being done in this area.
“If you want to diagnose RA early, you have to see patients with RA early. And there are actually quite a lot of initiatives going on.”
Thomas R. Collins is a freelance writer living in South Florida.
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