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Few Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Get Lipids Screen

Skipping annual primary care physician visit decreases lipid screening rate

THURSDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Primary lipid screening was carried out in less than half of eligible rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, many of whom see their rheumatologist as often or more than their primary care provider (PCP), according to a study published online Jan. 18 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Christie M. Bartels, M.D., from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and colleagues examined a 5 percent random sample of Medicare patients, which included 3,298 patients with RA without baseline cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia, who were considered eligible for primary lipid screening. The probability of lipid screening was assessed relative to the frequency of visits to the PCP or rheumatologist.

The investigators found that 45 percent of RA patients had primary lipid screening. Overall, 65 percent of RA patients received both primary and rheumatology care, and 50 percent saw a rheumatologist as often as they saw their PCP. Primary care predicted more lipid screening than rheumatology alone. As long as a PCP was involved, the lipid screening performance was similar irrespective of the balance between visits to the PCP and rheumatologist. Not seeing a PCP at least once a year decreased screening by 22 percent.

"The finding that half of RA patients see their rheumatologist at least as often as primary care suggests a need to study optimal partnerships between primary care providers and specialists for screening cardiovascular disease risk factors in high-risk populations within their medical homes and neighborhoods," the authors write.

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