Background In the management of Spondyloarthropathy, early diagnosis is the key. Previous UK studies show an average delay in diagnosis of IBP of up to 8 years. This is partly due to a failure of individuals with IBP symptoms to present to their GP and partly to a failure of GPs to recognize the IBP patient subgroup. IBP classification criteria have recently been developed and used in clinical practice. We applied a novel recruitment method using Facebook to identify IBP sufferers in the community. This may help to raise awareness toreduce the delay in diagnosis of Spondyloarthropathy.
Objectives Evaluate a novel way of recruiting potential patients with IBP, using social media.
Determine which of the two criteria sets for IBP, ie. ASAS or Calin, is fulfilled by more patients.
Methods A novel recruitment method using Facebook was applied in a cross-sectional survey carried out in the UK over 5 months to identify adults (≥18 years) with symptoms suggestive of IBP. Other methods, principally newspaper advertising, were used to generate a second group of participants for comparison. Online questionnaire-based surveys were completed to assess each group for IBP using the ASAS and Calin criteria. Data about previous diagnoses, GP, hospital consultations and back pain-related investigations, were also collected.
Results Of the 585 participants, 455 (77.8%) were recruited through Facebook and 130 (22.2%) by a Non-Facebook method. Of the Non-Facebook group, 90 (15.4%) were recruited by a newspaper advert and 40 (6.8%) by another method. The mean age of the Facebook group was typical of IBP at 41.5 years, and the mean age of the Non-Facebook group was higher at 59.4 years. Most participants were female: 447 (76%).
Proportions of those previously diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, told that their back pain was associated with “inflammation”, and were IBP positive on the questionnaire respectively, are shown in Table 1. In total 122 survey participants (21%) met the ASAS, and 292 (50%) met the Calin criteria for IBP at the time of the survey.
The majority of patients from each group reported consulting their GP, however few patients from either group had seen a rheumatologist (Table 1). The reason for non-referral to secondary care is unclear. Regarding further investigations, 45% (204) of the Facebook group reported having an MRI scan and 45% (205) an X-ray, whereas 50% (65) of the Non-Facebook group reported having an MRI scan and 59% (77) said they had been for an X-ray.
– Facebook advertising recruited a younger group of respondents of whom more fulfilled the criteria for IBP, suggesting this may be a cost-effective way of identifying patients earlier.
– Most patients with chronic back pain had consulted their GP, but few who met the criteria for IBP had been referred to a rheumatologist indicating the need for additional GP education.
– In our study group the ASAS IBP criteria were fulfilled by fewer patients than the Calin criteria.
Acknowledgement This study was sponsored by AbbVie and financial support for the study was provided by AbbVie. AbbVie participated in the interpretation of data, review, and approval of the abstract.
The authors wish to thank Bobby Brown, who supported this work as a medical writer and Patients Direct, who designed and conducted the study.
Disclosure of Interest None declared