To assess the views of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) patients and their parents on the care and treatment they receive in referral pediatric rheumatology centers throughout Europe.
In a collaboration between physicians and patient associations, a questionnaire was developed, covering various domains of JIA care, including demographics, diagnosis, referrals to various health care professionals, access to pain and fatigue management and support groups, information they received about the disease and awareness of and participation in research. The questionnaire was translated and distributed by parent associations and pediatric rheumatologists in 25 countries, 22 of which were European. After completion the replies were entered on the PRINTO website. Replies could either be entered directly by parents on the website or on paper. In these cases, the replies were scanned and emailed by local hospital staff to Utrecht where they were entered by I.R. in the database.
The survey was completed by 622 parents in 23 countries. The majority (66.7%) of patients were female, with median age 10-11 years at the completion of the questionnaire. Frequencies of self-reported JIA categories corresponded to literature. Some patients had never been referred to the ophthalmologist (22.8%) or physiotherapist (31.7%). Low rates of referral or access to fatigue (3.5%) or pain management teams (10.0%), age appropriate disease education (11.3%), special rehabilitation (13.7%) and support groups (20.1%) were observed. Many patients indicated they did not have contact details for urgent advice (35.9%) and did not receive information about immunizations (43.2%), research (55.6%) existence of transition of care clinics (89,2%) or financial support (89.7%). While on immunosuppressive drugs, about one half of patients did not receive information about immunizations, travelling, possible infections or how to deal with chickenpox or shingles.
Low rates of referral to health care professionals may be due to children whose illness is well managed and who do not need additional support or information. Improvements are needed, especially in the areas of supportive care and information patients receive. It is also important to improve doctor patient communication between visits. Physicians can be instrumental in the setting up of support groups and increasing patients' awareness of existing support. Suggestions are given to convey crucial pieces of information structurally and repeatedly to ensure, among other things, compliance.