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Stakeholder perceptions of preventive approaches to rheumatoid arthritis: qualitative study of healthcare professionals’ perspectives on predictive and preventive strategies

Wells, Imogen; Simons, Gwenda; Kanacherril, Jasin Philip; Mallen, Christian D.; Raza, Karim; Falahee, Marie


Imogen Wells

Gwenda Simons

Jasin Philip Kanacherril

Karim Raza

Marie Falahee


Background: There is increasing research interest in the development of preventive treatment for individuals at risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Previous studies have explored the perceptions of at-risk groups and patients about predictive and preventive strategies for RA, but little is known about health care professionals’ (HCPs) perspectives.

Methods: One-to-one semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted (face-to-face or by telephone) with HCPs. Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed, and the data were analysed by thematic analysis.

Results: Nineteen HCPs (11 female) were interviewed, including ten GPs, six rheumatologists and three rheumatology nurse specialists. The thematic analysis identified four organising themes: 1) Attributes of predictive and preventive approaches; 2) Ethical and psychological concerns; 3) Implementation issues and 4) Learning from management of other conditions. Theme 1 described necessary attributes of predictive and preventive approaches, including the type and performance of predictive tools, the need for a sound evidence base and consideration of risks and benefits associated with preventive treatment. Theme 2 described the ethical and psycho-social concerns that interviewees raised, including the potential negative economic, financial and psychological effects of risk disclosure for ‘at-risk’ individuals, uncertainty around the development of RA and the potential for benefit associated with the treatments being considered. Theme 3 describes the implementation issues considered, including knowledge and training needs, costs and resource implications of implementing predictive and preventive approaches, the role of different types of HCPs, guidelines and tools needed, and patient characteristics relating to the appropriateness of preventive treatments. Theme 4 describes lessons that could be learned from interviewees’ experiences of prediction and prevention in other disease areas, including how preventive treatment is prescribed, existing guidelines and tools for other diseases and issues relating to risk communication.

Conclusions: For successful implementation of predictive and preventative approaches in RA, HCPs need appropriate training about use and interpretation of predictive tools, communication of results to at-risk individuals, and options for intervention. Evidence of cost-efficiency, appropriate resource allocation, adaptation of official guidelines and careful consideration of the at-risk individuals’ psycho-social needs are also needed.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 19, 2023
Online Publication Date Oct 3, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2023
Journal BMC Rheumatology
Print ISSN 2520-1026
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Article Number 35
Keywords Qualitative, Rheumatoid arthritis, Healthcare professionals, Preventive treatment, Interview, Predictive tools