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EULAR Conference 2015

Feedback report from EULAR Conference 2015 for the RHPA Scholarship Committee

PantheonThe 16th annual European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) European Congress of Rheumatology was held in Rome, the ‘eternal city’ from 10-13th June 2015. Contributions to the program included reports on both scientific and clinical progress in rheumatic and musculoskeletal research and practice, input from Health Professionals in Rheumatology (HPR) and valuable contributions and perspectives from the People with Arthritis and Rheumatism in Europe group (PARE). In addition this year also featured a joint congress of EULAR and PReS (Paediatric Rheumatology European Society) as is the case every 3 years, offering an extended programme for paediatric rheumatology.

With more than 14,000 people registered from almost 120 countries, 160 sessions given by over 300 speakers and several hundred posters available for viewing, this was certainly the largest conference I have ever attended. Deciding which sessions to attend was extremely difficult given the range and number of concurrent sessions.  Fortunately the abstracts were made available electronically to registrants and many sessions were recorded and are now available online on the EULAR website.

The conference aimed to bring together people from a broad range of specialty fields to discuss new developments in rheumatic and musculoskeletal medicine and also to provide a unique opportunity to network with clinicians, researchers, health professionals and patients from all over the world.

Speakers included researchers, medical clinicians, nursing and allied health practitioners and consumers.

Croatia and Turkey 988Emerging topics for this congress included the rapidly expanding availability of biosimilar medications and related issues, new treatments for psoriatic arthritis, therapies for orphan diseases and various strategies for the management of pain. The PARE group offered a varied program to complement these broad topics with sessions were tailored to the perspectives and experiences of the patient.

One of the key themes running throughout the sessions I attended was patient education and empowerment with many presentations and posters providing reports and snapshots of self- management programs, initiatives in patient centred care, quality of life outcome measures and self- efficacy.

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Report on a new tool to measure disease activity in Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM)  which  incorporates perspectives from patients, parents and physicians. This is an easy to use tool for routine assessment of disease activity and will enable clinicians to compare disease activity at different times in the same patient and also between different patients. The next step is to start using this tool in clinical studies.
  • European guidelines for patients with JIA transitioning from paediatric to adult care. These draft guidelines were introduced by Prof Helen Foster from Newcastle University and were developed by consensus using a Delphi study. The guidelines are expected to be completed and launched later this year.
  • Development of a safety checklist for chickenpox immunisation for patients on methotrexate
  • New educational approaches using technology in the training of health professionals. This session included the use of Google smart glasses to give students the patient’s perspective, the use of high fidelity simulation to improve safety, clickers for students  to enable real time  in-class quizzes, games and group discussion and also enhanced Powerpoint programs to assist vision and hearing impaired students
  • Defining, documenting and understanding the impact of fatigue in rheumatic disease. Recent studies have shown that the presence of severe fatigue may be as high as 50% and may not necessarily be due to disease activity but rather to the inactivity and deconditioning that often occurs during a flare. More research into the relationship between disease activity and fatigue in both acute and chronic disease is needed.

Croatia and Turkey 1006In line with the emphasis on patient centred care and self -management strategies, many presentations I attended utilised qualitative rather than quantitative research methods that included Delphi studies, mixed methods research and group concept mapping designs which are able to include valuable patient experiences and perspectives and which also reminds us that patients are partners with their clinicians in managing their condition.

I was privileged to be able to attend this conference and am grateful for the financial support I received from the RHPA Scholarship Fund which covered my registration and accommodation expenses. This fund was established in 2014 and is generously supported by Pfizer, Roche and AbbVie.