Arthritis Outcomes Study

Motivated by a desire to know how our patients are doing and how effectively they are being treated, ARCK is launching the Arthritis Outcomes Study. The large variety and volume of patients we see makes ARCK an ideal setting to conduct such a study, and while the questionnaires and forms issued to patients at each visit may seem somewhat time-consuming, they serve as an integral part of the data collected for our study.

We can assume that because we're working hard, because many of our patients express satisfaction, and because we have effective new therapies for treating our diseases that we're doing enough, stated Dr. Timothy Shaver, but until we carefully measure patient outcomes, we don't really know how effective we are in treating them.

Outcomes is a broad term that encompasses functional daily activities or disability, as measured by the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), numbers of swollen and tender joints, joint damage as measured by x-ray or more sophisticated tools such as ultrasound or MRI, and laboratory markers of inflammation such as the sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein (CRP). As time goes on, these measurements can be further correlated with more important long-term outcomes such as employment status, need for joint replacement surgery, and survival.

We already collect a lot of information on our patients at each office visit and use it to guide our treatment decisions, notes Ruth Busch, A.R.N.P. We're now taking this information one step further and seeing how all of our patients are doing and how the therapies we are offering them may be impacting their diseases and their lives.

The Arthritis Outcomes Study is not an experiment ARCK is conducting on our patients. It is simply a more complete method of collecting data. While patients will not be placed on experimental medications as a result of their participation in this study, it is hoped that what is discovered as we analyze the data will help us guide proper treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases in the future. Patients with all types of illnesses are welcome to sign up for the study, which will involve no extra visits or any significant time commitment on their part. In some situations, a phone call a few times a year may be necessary to clarify some details.

Thus far, we have discovered that among the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients treated at ARCK, between 20-25% are considered to be in remission. While these figures are encouraging, we would like this number to be even higher and to increase as we gain knowledge of how to treat RA and other rheumatic diseases.

The reason we've come as far as we have today in our understanding of the optimal way of treating rheumatoid arthritis and many other diseases is in large part because of large observational studies such as the one we're launching, Dr. Shaver points out. We're excited about the opportunity to gain a better understanding of our patient's illnesses and how to have a greater impact on their lives as a result of the therapies we're offering them.

The Arthritis Outcomes Study is being conducted in close cooperation with the Arthritis Research Foundation Center led by Dr. Frederick Wolfe, internationally noted rheumatologist and researcher. ARCK fully acknowledges that without Dr. Wolfe's guidance and skill in analyzing and interpreting the data that work such as this would not be possible.

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