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Keywords:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • DMARDs;
  • Quality of care

Abstract

Objective

To construct quality measures with measurement validity and meaning for clinicians.

Methods

We conducted a prospective cohort study of rates of change in disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) and/or systemic corticosteroid drug or dose for 568 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) across 6,159 clinical encounters within 12 months to examine how changes in clinical specifications change adherence.

Results

Rates of DMARD change were sensitive to specifications regarding the intensity of disease activity (severe or moderate), duration of specified disease activity, and length of the observation period. Over 12 months, the proportions of 377 patients with severe disease activity observed for 1-month, 2-month, and 3-month time blocks who had a change in DMARD drug or dose were 36%, 57%, and 74%, respectively. Over 12 months, a change in DMARD drug or dose was observed for 44%, 50%, and 68% of 377 patients with severe disease within 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months, respectively, of the patient meeting criteria for severe disease activity. A change in DMARD drug or dose was observed for 21%, 23%, and 34% of 149 patients with moderate disease activity within 3, 6, and 12 months, respectively, of the patient meeting criteria for moderate disease activity.

Conclusion

Rates of pharmacologic interventions for patients with moderate and severe RA disease activity vary substantially by intensity and duration of disease activity and by duration of period for observing change. Lack of precision in explicit process criteria could substantially mislead comparisons of quality of care across comparison groups.