by Dana Symons
Last month was the third year that the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation attended the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Annual Meeting. According to ACR, this was the third largest meeting in their history, attracting nearly 15,000 doctors, health professionals and others interested in rheumatology. You’ll be hearing reports from several of our volunteers over the coming weeks, but I wanted to share an overview of RPF’s experience and presence at ACR this year.
The Exhibit Booth
This was our third year exhibiting at ACR. As in the past, we had a booth space in the Exhibit Hall staffed by a wonderful group of volunteers. The Exhibit Booth was a great opportunity for us to create awareness of our organization, share the mission and goals of RPF, and provide information about the resources we have available for health professionals. We had samples of all six of our educational brochures, including our two new ones about Methotrexate and Treat to Target. Our volunteers also had the opportunity to engage in conversation with clinicians and other health professionals, sharing information from the patient’s perspective. We received a lot of encouraging feedback – from those who were already familiar with RPF and our work, but also from those who learned about our organization for the first time.
Each day of the Annual Meeting, there are educational sessions that run from early morning into the evening, covering a wide range of topics in rheumatology. Our volunteers were able to attend several of these sessions, and they’ll be sharing what they learned and experienced through that.
RPF Session on Patient Engagement
This year, RPF broke new ground by having our own speaking session at the Annual Meeting. RPF Founder and President, Kelly Young, had a vision of presenting on the topic of Patient Engagement at ACR, but there was a lot of work and steps to take to make that happen. At the end of last year, RPF created a session proposal outlining the topics and learning objectives we wanted to cover and submitted it to ACR. After review from the session committee, our proposal was accepted as a session with the American Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP). Kelly had strategically identified three key speakers to participate: Dr. Jeffrey Curtis (rheumatologist and RPF advisory board member), Elizabeth Riggs, PhD (registered nurse, RA patient, and RPF member), and Kelly Young herself (as the founder of RAWarrior.com, RPF and as an “experienced” RA patient). These three individuals combined to make a very powerful panel of speakers, each with their own unique credentials.
The ARHP Session was held on Tuesday afternoon. Despite being later in the day and later in the Meeting, the session room was filled! Dr. Curtis spoke first on using Patient Reported Outcomes in clinical practice and the importance of doctors partnering with patients to create what he called a “therapeutic alliance.” His expert knowledge, experience, and wit came together to create a very engaging talk. Elizabeth Riggs spoke next on Overcoming Obstacles to Shared Decision Making and she proclaimed a rheumatology appointment as truly a meeting between two experts: the doctor and the patient. Elizabeth used her experience as a health professional, her experience as a patient, her humor and her unabashed conviction to open the eyes of the attendees to the truth of this “vile disease”. Finally, Kelly Young spoke about Engaging Patients as Partners, dispelling myths about rheumatoid disease and exposing the truth about what patients experience. Her passion and her dedication shone through as she gave example after example of unrecognized truths about rheumatoid disease. Her talk served as a powerful anchor for the session, opening the eyes of the audience and landing on the crucial importance of involving patients in their own care.
There was a full crowd in the session room, and I am sure that not a single person left there unaffected by what they heard. The impact these talks made was evident from the feedback and interest of the attendees – and it gave many of them pause to consider how they can better partner with their own patients. Look for more details and video from this session coming soon.
Poster Hall & RPF Research Posters
Another ground-breaking thing happened at ACR this year: RPF submitted two research abstracts that were accepted by ACR for poster presentations and publication in a supplement of the October issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (online only), an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology. Each day of the ACR Annual Meeting there is a GIANT room filled with hundreds of research abstracts printed on oversized posters. RPF presented two posters on Tuesday, based on survey data collected from our own patient community. Click below to download a copy of each of the posters.
We received a lot of positive feedback during our poster presentations, with many doctors recognizing the importance of our work.
We left the ACR Annual Meeting (literally the last ones out of the building!) on a very high note, not with a sense of completion, but with a sense of momentum – looking forward to the next steps for continued research and education aimed at improving quality of care for people with rheumatoid disease.