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The national database of the German Collaborative Arthritis Centres: I. Structure, aims, and patients


OBJECTIVE To describe the aims, principles, and content of the German rheumatological database and to present data on patient mix and healthcare provision for the year 1998.

METHODS The German rheumatological database contains clinical and patient derived data of the outpatients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases seen at one of the 24 collaborative arthritis centres. The case mix, institutional context, and demographic features of 25 653 patients from the year 1998 were analysed.

RESULTS 51% of the patients had rheumatoid arthritis, 23% seronegative spondyloarthropathies, including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and reactive arthritis, and 19% had vasculitis, including SLE (5%). The distribution of the age at onset of patients with RA with ⩽2 years' disease duration was comparable with recent incidence data from population studies. The case mix differed between university departments and rheumatology hospitals as well as individual practices. 65% of the male and 46% of the female patients at ages 18–60 were still in gainful employment, the rates of employment were 14% below the population rates for women, and 11% below those for men. 62% of all patients had seen a rheumatologist within the first year of disease, 73% within the first two years. Ankylosing spondylitis was seen in rheumatological care much later than all other diseases (only 39% within the first year). The mean number of contacts with a rheumatologist was five a year; rheumatologists in individual practices saw their patients seven times a year on the average. Together with visits to the non-specialist doctor mainly treating the patient, the mean number of visits to the doctor for a rheumatic condition was 20 a year.

CONCLUSION Large databases like this one give information about the patient case mix in different healthcare settings, about treatment practice, and about the consequences of disease. Patients treated in specialised rheumatology units in Germany are referred earlier than in the past, which probably reflects better regional cooperation due to the implementation of arthritis centres. University departments and outpatient clinics of rheumatology hospitals contribute considerably to the specialised care of patients with arthritis and connective tissue diseases.

  • arthritis centres
  • database
  • rheumatological care

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