New Guidelines for Treating Rheumatic Disease

Experts offer recommendations in six key areas to treat rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease.

Experts from academia, scientific societies, patient organizations, Member States' government, and social security institutions as well as EU bodies designed a set of recommendations and key policies for improving the management and prevention of rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease.

The initiative was announced at the EU Presidency Conference on MSKD, which was organized in collaboration with European League Against Rheumatism.

The recommendations embraced six areas of intervention:

-MSKD on health policy agendas;

-rights of patients to healthcare and to full inclusion in economic and social life;

-early prevention; evidence-based treatment and standards of care;

-patient involvement in the design, implementation and evaluation of healthcare services;

-research.

Consensus was reached among participants concerning recognition of the socioeconomic importance of MSKD and the need for prioritising MSKD on health policy agendas.

EULAR President Prof. Paul Emery said, in a press release, "MSKD should be recognized as one of the most important public health challenges, given the enormous burden of these disorders on individuals' lives, the social and health systems, and thereby the whole economy."

The conference underlined the importance of active patient involvement. The team suggested that access to health care services and full inclusion in society should be recognized as entitlements of citizens with such disorders. However, as several speakers pointed out, much effort is still needed to guarantee equal access to treatment as well as integration into the labor market. The team called upon employers to allow for adaptations of work environments and working conditions. Such flexibility at work places would enable people to stay in work or return to work instead of being excluded, they said.

Delegates also made the case for concrete actions on prevention. The impact of musculoskeletal diseases could, in many cases, be limited if people affected by them benefited from early referral and early diagnosis. Well trained general practitioners and specialists as well as a sufficient number of specialized centers, were mentioned as key elements to serve this purpose.

According to participants, EU institutions and Member States should guarantee that the management of chronic diseases, and particularly MSKD, is organized in accordance with evidence-based recommendations. Moreover, standards of care should be further developed and implemented across Europe, they said.

Special attention was given to the role of patients in both prevention and management of musculoskeletal diseases. It was emphasized that patients should be more involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of healthcare services, and that new forms of doctor/patients partnership should be developed.

Neil Betteridge, vice president of the EULAR Standing Committee of People with Arthritis and Rheumatism in Europe (PARE), said, “The involvement of patients represents benefits in two different ways. First, it promotes self-management and self-sufficiency, which are essential for coping with our own diseases. Second, as we are experts in living with these conditions, we can make a significant contribution in designing and evaluating preventive initiatives and treatments".

Delegates also recognized the need for a stronger commitment of both Member States and EU institutions to support and fund basic and applied research in this area. It was stressed that it is not only important to improve knowledge on the determinants of these disorders, but also knowledge and technologies in the fields of prevention and treatment.

EULAR President Professor Emery presented the conference recommendations at the Ministerial Conference, “Innovative approaches for chronic illness in Public Health and Healthcare systems,” organized by the Belgian EU Presidency on the following day. Summarizing the two days, he said: “Our community is very satisfied with the results of these two conferences. We can see that Europe is finally recogni(z)ing the dimension and impact of musculoskeletal disorders. All actors should now work together to implement the excellent ideas exchanged here into daily practice.”

Source: European League Against Rheumatism

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