Implementing a patient-initiated review system in rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative evaluation.
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BACKGROUND: The management of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a chronic relapsing condition primarily affecting joints usually entails regular hospital reviews with a specialist. These reviews can occur when the patient is well. This study forms part of a service evaluation of a system wide implementation of a patient initiated review appointment system which we have called Direct Access (DA). The aim was to explore the experiences of patients and staff of a DA system in order to understand the process of the implementation and to identify potential improvements. METHODS: Twenty-three patients with RA that had completed one year of follow-up on the DA system and seven healthcare professionals (HCPs) involved in the implementation of the DA review system took part in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the interview data and field notes. RESULTS: Four themes emerged in the data: (1) building patient confidence and empowerment, (2) right place right time, (3) safety, (4) the everyday challenges of managing change. These show that in order for implementation to be successful the patient needs to have confidence in using a new system of requesting a medical review, which, in turn, needs to be offered quickly and in a setting convenient to both patient and clinician. Embedded in the change process need to be systems for ensuring regular disease monitoring and general issues surrounding team working, communication and ownership of the change process also need to be considered from the outset. CONCLUSION: The clinics offer increased patient autonomy and the opportunity for greater self-management of chronic disease. This fits with new models of care where the patient is considered to be 'the expert'.
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