Collaboration and EVOLVE key priorities for new ARA President

As Professor Rachelle Buchbinder contemplates her priorities as the new President of the Australian Rheumatology Association there are many important issues at the forefront of her mind.

One issue that is particularly close to her heart is encouraging closer collaboration with colleagues who also manage people with musculoskeletal disease.

Physiotherapists, orthopaedic surgeons and bone specialists are all involved in the care of people living with a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions yet they often work in isolation from each other.

“Each professional body has its own annual scientific meeting but they could all learn so much from each other” she says, acknowledging that bringing a diverse group of health professionals together for even just a one-day meeting was a hard ask.

Another issue high up on Buchbinder’s agenda is reducing inappropriate variations in care within rheumatology practice.

This is currently being carried out through the clinician led RACP EVOLVE program that spans all specialist areas.

“There’s been incredible enthusiasm for EVOLVE in our organisation and we have had a much greater response than we’ve ever had to other surveys,” she says.

An unprecedented 50 percent of the ARA membership completed the survey that asked members to vote for their top 5 interventions not to do.

“The time is right to look at our own practices and reduce inappropriate variation in care…trying to improve the overall care and health of our patients is really the bottom line.”

There are also issues such as making sure the governance and structures of the ARA are right and that the organisation stays in tune with what its members want.

Some of the members have suggested that position statements would help them provide the best possible care to their patients.

While the ARA has issued position statements in the past, for example on the place of stem cells in clinical practice there could potentially be a series of position statements we could develop, she says.

And then there is the ongoing issue of how to raise the profile of rheumatologists so they are recognised as the experts in managing musculoskeletal conditions.

It’s an issue the profession has struggled with for a long time, she admits.

“We’ve talked about how we can improve our profile, for example do we need a byline which says ‘we treat all musculoskeletal conditions’,” she says.

The issue seems to affect every aspect of rheumatology from patient care to obtaining funding for important research.

The burden of MSK disease is huge and although it’s a national health priority area it does not seem to get the recognition and funds to address it that it deserves.

“It’s just not a priority, perhaps by and large, because it doesn’t kill you,” she says.

“That’s a real problem because people aren’t thinking about this problem on an international or national scale”.

Other newly appointed board members: Professor David Nicholls is president elect, Dr Catherine Hill is the new honorary secretary and Dr Sam Whittle is the new honorary treasurer.

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