Matching Arthritis Care to Patients’ Needs


Study Title:

A Better Match: Transforming rheumatoid arthritis care through tailored follow-up strategies based on disease activity and patient complexity.


Principal Investigator: 

Claire Barber, MD PhD FRCPC, Assistant Professor, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary


Start Date:

February 2020


End Date:

January 2023


Why do this research?

There is a crisis in healthcare for Canadians living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Due to a shortage of rheumatologists in Canada, many people with RA must wait a long time to see one. Once they see a rheumatologist most RA patients have follow-up appointments every 3-12 months for 15-20 minutes. Individual patient’s needs are rarely considered when scheduling these appointments, as everyone gets the same amount of time. This study explores a new method of treatment by creating patient care plans that match the needs of the individual patient. The aim is to provide a new solution for sharing resources more effectively while also reducing wait times to see a rheumatologist.


What will be done?

This research will test a new way to help the patients who need more care to get it. We will assign patients who are doing very well to either a care as usual group or a “virtual clinic” group. For the “virtual clinic group”, rheumatology staff will review the patient’s health status online and follow-up by phone. This will reduce the burden of in-person follow-up for patients who are doing well. We will assign patients with higher disease activity and/or medical or health needs to either a care as usual group or a high intensity care group. Patients in the high intensity care group will have longer medical appointments with more members of the healthcare team.

This study will help us determine whether the new model of care is better, or not, than usual care. It will be relevant for changing the delivery of care to hundreds of patients with RA in Calgary, AB.


Who is on the research team?


Linda Watson, RN PhD CON(C)

Cheryl Barnabe, MD MSc FRCPC

Glen Hazlewood, MD PhD FRCPC

James Rankin RN PhD

Paul MacMullan, MD FRCPC

Diane Mosher, MD FRCPC

Kyla Craig, RN MN

Melissa DeBelser, RN


Who is involved?

This study is a pilot study and will be done at the University of Calgary’s rheumatology clinics. Rheumatologists, nurses, and allied health care providers at the clinics will work together to test the new model of care. Two patient partners who have RA are also helping the research team. We will invite patients at the clinics who have RA to be part of the study.


Funding Agency:

STARS Career Development Award funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis (CIHR-IMHA) and adjudicated through the Arthritis Society.