Objectives To describe the variability in rheumatology visits and referrals to other medical specialties of patients with spondyloarthritis (SpA), and to explore factors that may influence such variability.
Methods Nation-wide cross-sectional study performed in 2009-2010. Randomly selected records of patients with a diagnosis of SpA and at least one visit to a rheumatology unit within the previous two years were audited. The rates of rheumatology visits and of referrals to other medical specialties were estimated – total and between centres – in the study period. Multilevel regression was used to analyse factors associated to variability, and to adjust for clinical and patient characteristics.
Results 1,168 patients' records (45 centres) were reviewed, mainly ankylosing spondylitis (55.2%) and psoriatic arthritis (22.2%). The patients had incurred in 5,908 visits to rheumatology clinics (rate 254 per 100 patient-years), 4,307 visits to other medical specialties (19.6% were referrals from rheumatology), and 775 visits to specialised nurse clinics. An adjusted variability in frequenting rheumatology clinics of 15.7% between centres was observed [Table]. This was partially explained by the number of faculties (β 0.309; 95%CI 0.155, 0.463) and trainees (β -1.441; 95%CI -2.526, -0.356). The adjusted intercentre variability for referrals to other specialties was 12.3%, and it was associated with urban settings (OR 1.237; 95%CI 1.309, 1.399), number of procedures (OR 1.011; 95%CI 1.001, 1.020), and existence of SpA dedicated clinics (OR 1.762; 95%CI 1.101, 2.821); the probability of a patient with SpA of being referred to other specialist may increase up to 25% depending on the treating centre.
Conclusions Frequenting rheumatology clinics and referrals to other specialists significantly varies between centres, after adjustment by patient characteristics.
Disclosure of Interest None declared