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The delivery of evidence-based preventive care for older Americans with arthritis

Jeffrey R Curtis12*, Tarun Arora2, Pongthorn Narongroeknawin1, Allison Taylor2, Clifton O Bingham3, Jack Cush4, Kenneth G Saag12, Monika Safford5 and Elizabeth Delzell2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 510 20th Street South, FOT 805D, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1530 3rd Ave So, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

3 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, 5200 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA

4 Baylor Research Institute, 3434 Live Oak St, Dallas, TX 75204, USA

5 Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1530 3rd Ave So, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2010, 12:R144  doi:10.1186/ar3086

Published: 16 July 2010



Previous research suggests patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may receive suboptimal care with respect to preventive tests and services. We evaluated the proportion of older Americans with RA, psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and osteoarthritis (OA) receiving these services and the specialty of the providers delivering this care.


Using data from 1999 to 2006 from the Medicare Chronic Conditions Warehouse, we identified persons age >/= 65 in the national 5% sample. Over the required five-year observation period, we identified tests and services recommended for older adults and the associated healthcare provider. Services of interest included dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), influenza and pneumococcal vaccination, hyperlipidemia lab testing, mammography and colonoscopy.


After accounting for the sampling fraction, we identified 141,140 RA, 6,300 PsA, and 770,520 OA patients eligible for analysis. Over five years, a majority of RA, PsA, and OA patients were tested for hyperlipidemia (84%, 89% and 87% respectively) and received DXA (69%, 75%, and 52%). Only approximately one-third of arthritis patients received pneumococcal vaccination; 19% to 22% received influenza vaccination each year. Approximately 20% to 35% of arthritis patients never underwent mammography and colonoscopy over five years. Concomitant care from both a rheumatologist and a primary care physician was significantly associated with a greater likelihood of receiving almost all preventive tests and services.


Among older Americans on Medicare, the absolute proportion of persons with arthritis receiving various recommended preventive services and screening tests was substantially less than 100%. Improved co-management between primary care and arthritis physicians may in part improve the delivery of preventive care for arthritis patients, but novel systematic interventions in this area are needed.