TUESDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- European patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience an average delay of 24 weeks from the time of symptom onset to the assessment by a rheumatologist, according to a study published online Aug. 7 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Karim Raza, Ph.D., from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated the extent and causes of delay in the assessment of patients with RA. Data were collected from 482 patients with RA from 10 rheumatology centers in eight European countries. Data were assessed for different levels of delay: from onset of RA symptoms to request to see health care professionals (HCP); from request to see HCP to assessment by that HCP; from initial HCP assessment to referral to rheumatologist; and from referral to rheumatologist to assessment by the rheumatologist.
The investigators found a median delay of 24 weeks from symptom onset to assessment by the rheumatologist, with 8 to 42 percent of patients seen within 12 weeks of symptom onset. Important differences were observed in levels underlying the total delays at individual centers, including patient delay, initial HCP assessment, delay in referring to rheumatologist, and rheumatologist delay in assessing following referral.
"This research highlights the contribution of patient behavior, professional behavior, and health systems to assessment delay for people with RA in selected European rheumatology centers," the authors write. "In all cases the median time from symptom onset to assessment by a rheumatologist was ≥4 months."