Rheumatoid arthritis patient perceptions on the value of predictive testing for treatments: a qualitative study

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long term condition that requires early treatment to control symptoms and improve long-term outcomes. Lack of response to RA treatments is not only a waste of healthcare resources, but also causes disability and distress to patients. Identifying biomarkers predictive of treatment response offers an opportunity to improve clinical decisions about which treatment to recommend in patients and could ultimately lead to better patient outcomes. The aim of this study was to explore the understanding of and factors affecting Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients’ decisions around predictive treatment testing.
A qualitative study was conducted with a purposive sample of 16 patients with RA from three major UK cities. Four focus groups explored patient perceptions of the use of biomarker tests to predict response to treatments. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis by three researchers.
Data were organised within three interlinking themes: [1] Perceptions of predictive tests and patient preference of tests; [2] Utility of the test to manage expectations; [3] The influence of the disease duration on take up of predictive testing. During consultations for predictive testing, patients felt they would need, first, careful explanations detailing the consequences of untreated RA and delayed treatment response and, second, support to balance the risks of tests, which might be invasive and/or only moderately accurate, with the potential benefits of better management of symptoms.
This study provides important insights into predictive testing. Besides supporting clinical decision making, the development of predictive testing in RA is largely supported by patients. Developing strategies which communicate risk information about predictive testing effectively while reducing the psychological burden associated with this information will be essential to maximise uptake.
Original languageEnglish
Article number460
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2016


  • Rheumatoid arthritis, predictive testing, patient perspective


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