Background The timely and accurate diagnosis in most rheumatic diseases is still a big issue for patients as the choice of the appropriate doctor's specialty is still at the discretion of the patient, mainly due to the poor organized health care services. Furthermore, the success of our campaign two years ago, when we gave the opportunity to people suspecting they might have an RMD but who could not afford a rheumatologist to be examined for free, prompted our organization to offer not only free consultations but free lab tests as well.
Objectives To raise awareness of RMDs and at the same time to enable people of lower income who may have the early warning signs of rheumatic diseases to be examined by a rheumatologist and have lab tests done at no cost.
Methods Firstly, we found a sponsor who embraced our initiative and was willing to cover the cost of the whole campaign. Secondly, we contacted various medical laboratories to give us low estimates on the RMD tests and then we chose to collaborate with the ones offering us the lowest prices. Then we came into contact with all the rheumatologists in all the prefectures of the island and asked them to offer consultations free of charge according to their availability. On WAD, 12 October, we erected four stands in four central locations of our island with our logo, a banner, informative leaflets and a large number of well-informed volunteers to answer queries. Prior to WAD we had promoted this special event in the mass and social media. A lot of people visited our stands, told us their problem and their signs and we wrote down the names and phone numbers of those we deemed needed a rheumatologist. As last time, there were people who had already been seeing a rheumatologist who wanted to take advantage of this opportunity; we had to reject them as this was only available to people who had not been diagnosed previously. The following two days our office made an appointment for these people with a rheumatologist in their area. The doctors prescribed the necessary laboratory tests and gave a free voucher for the tests to those that needed them. The cost of the lab tests was covered by our association. Our office received a large number of calls from people who wanted to be tested and unfortunately, we could not accommodate all of them as our budget was limited.
Results More than 267 people visited our stands and 209 people phoned our office asking to be tested. We made appointments for 123 people of whom 111 showed up for their appointments. The rheumatologists gave vouchers and prescribed lab tests for 89 of them. 12 rheumatologists volunteered their services gratis and more than 40 volunteers took part in the campaign.
Conclusions People's awareness of RMDs is growing but there are still undiagnosed people due to financial constraints, inadequate health insurance coverage and lack of information. Since the demand for free testing is very high we will make every effort to be able to provide this opportunity to undiagnozed people again in the future!
Disclosure of Interest A. Stara Grant/research support from: BMS