Survey Reveals Rheumatologists Can Positively Impact Treatment Journey for People with Ankylosing Spondylitis, Non-Radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis

– People with these conditions who most regularly see a rheumatologist report more positive HCP relationship than those who see other HCP types –

PHILADELPHIANovember 9, 2020 — A new survey from Health Union finds that seeing a rheumatologist for both radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis, and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis can have a positive impact on a patient’s treatment journey and perspectives of their relationships with healthcare professionals (HCP). The Ankylosing Spondylitis/Axial Spondyloarthritis In America survey illuminates the perspectives and experiences of people living with both ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis.

These findings also support the recent launch of AxialSpondyloarthritis.net, Health Union’s 28th condition-specific online health community, as well as the continued engagement and conversations within AnkylosingSpondylitis.net, which launched in 2019.

According to the Spondylitis Association of America, axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) is a form of arthritis that affects the spine and other joints throughout the body, causing inflammation, pain and stiffness that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. AxSpA commonly refers to non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-AxSpA), wherein no characteristic damage of the sacroiliac joints or spinal fusing appears on x-rays. On the other hand, when people have radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, which is commonly referred to as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), characteristic damage is evident on x-rays.

Ankylosing Spondylitis/Axial Spondyloarthritis In America survey findings suggest that, when a rheumatologist is the type of HCP most often seen for these conditions, people report a more positive patient journey in terms of their HCP relationships.

The percentage of respondents who most often see a rheumatologist for their condition is fairly similar for both conditions, with 49% of those with AS and 54% of those with nr-AxSpA. The most frequently seen HCP for the rest of AS respondents included primary care physicians (37%) and pain management specialists (25%). Meanwhile, 31% of nr-AxSpA respondents most often see a PCP, while 17% don’t regularly see any HCP for their condition.

Respondents with both conditions who most regularly see a rheumatologist were more likely than other respondents with those conditions to view their HCP relationships favorably on a number of factors. Those factors include being satisfied with the care they receive, agreeing with their HCP on the severity of their condition and feeling their diagnosis and treatment options are clearly explained. Specifically looking at respondents with nr-AxSpA, those who most often see a rheumatologist were also more likely than others with the condition to say they receive easy-to-understand test results and not as likely to feel rushed during appointments.

“Having a good relationship with your rheumatologist is key to treatment and results for someone with spondyloarthritis,” said AxialSpondyloarthritis.net patient advocate Rebecca Cappello. “Open communication with your rheumatologist about symptoms and pain relief is essential for an effective treatment plan. This has helped me continue to be active, live life and move forward while coping with AxSpA.”

In addition to having a favorable relationship with their HCP, both AS and nr-AxSpA respondents who most regularly see a rheumatologist were more likely to say they rely on doctors’ recommendations regarding treatments and that they feel they do a good job of following their treatment plan. They were also more likely to currently use a biologic medication, a drug typically prescribed to people with rheumatological conditions to fight inflammation.

AS respondents specifically who most often see a rheumatologist were more likely than other AS respondents to say they have never had surgery for their condition. They were also more likely to have waited less than three months between receiving their diagnosis and starting a prescription medication; on the other hand, AS respondents who don’t most often see a rheumatologist were more likely than those who do to have waited at least three years between their diagnosis and starting a prescription.

“Throughout Health Union’s online health communities, we observe many conversations around HCP relationships and the importance of finding the HCPs that work best for a person’s specific situation,” said Tim Armand, co-founder and president of Health Union. “Having communities for both ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis allows for people with those conditions to engage with each other on topics, such as their HCP relationships, that matter most to them.”

The Ankylosing Spondylitis/Axial Spondyloarthritis In America survey was fielded from March 23 to July 22, 2020. The survey included responses from 787 people diagnosed with AS, 105 people diagnosed with nr-AxSpA and 289 people either living with undifferentiated spondyloarthritis or who didn’t know their spondyloarthritis type. Additional survey results may be available upon request.

More information about living with both conditions can be found on AnkylosingSpondylitis.net and AxialSpondyloarthritis.net.

About Health Union

Since 2010, Health Union has encouraged social interactions that evolve into valuable online health conversations, helping people with chronic conditions find the information, connection, and validation they seek. The company creates condition-specific online communities – publishing original, daily content and continuously cultivating social conversation – to support, educate and connect millions of people with challenging, chronic health concerns. Today, the Health Union family of brands includes 29 online health communities, including LungCancer.net, ParkinsonsDisease.net, MultipleSclerosis.net and Migraine.com.