For more than a decade, Kaleb Michaud, PhD, has volunteered for the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). As an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, he spent much of that time serving on a task force dedicated to the development of RISE (the Rheumatology Informatics System for Effectiveness).
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As an enhanced version of its predecessor—the Rheumatology Clinical Registry—RISE was launched two years ago. Its purpose is to systematically collect clinical patient data—by syncing with a practice’s electronic health records—to help rheumatologists better manage patient populations, improve patient care and meet federal reporting requirements.
Dr. Michaud says his passion for the project is related to both his intellectual curiosity and personal experiences. Many years ago, at the age of 3, he was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
“The reason I’m involved in rheumatology research is because I don’t want patients to have to suffer unnecessarily like I did as a kid, when care can be so much better,” says Dr. Michaud, who is also co-director of the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases, a large patient registry. “As a patient, I cringe with disappointment when seeing rheumatologists who don’t use measures or track a patient’s changing status other than in their notes. Notes are fine, but we see over and over again that patients do better when you can track the disease using standard measures and set goals.”
So far, RISE contains health data for 130,000 patients afflicted with rheumatic diseases and has collected data on more than 3 million patient visits since it was introduced. Dr. Michaud believes the system is an effective way for rheumatologists to jump ahead of the curve, because it analyzes data to suggest improvements in patient care, which can also lead to higher Medicare reimbursements, and enables rheumatologists to compare patient and payer ratings among peers nationwide or in their practice.
Later this year, rheumatologists conducting research will also be able to query the database in hopes of optimizing patient outcomes and pushing the field forward, he adds.
Meanwhile, it’s important for all rheumatologists and healthcare facilities to be connected to RISE so they can be part of a bigger picture. Even if they never access the system or their healthcare facility oversees quality reporting, he says all patient data can still contribute to innovative medical advancements or discoveries.
“I can see the benefit that RISE provides to the overall field of rheumatology, science, rheumatologists and their patients,” says Dr. Michaud. “It’s not going to produce a cure overnight. … Studies take a long time. But this offers a quick way to [take the] pulse [of] the country [and get a sense of] what everyone is doing, what’s happening, what’s working and what’s not working.”