Perspective By: Teri Puhalsky
Key takeaways from the ACR 2021 Convergence Conference from RNS Board Member Teri Puhalsky
The quality and depth of topics at the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) 2021 Convergence, offered impressive discussions that are essential for all healthcare workers. Specifically, the closing panel discussion, The Future of Rheumatology Around the Globe, was an ideal conclusion to this world’s premier rheumatology experience.
Featuring five leading rheumatology physicians from each Global League of Rheumatology, this session included representatives from the ACR, the Pan-American League of Associations for Rheumatology (PANLAR), the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR), the Asia-Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR), and the African League Against Rheumatism (AFLAR).
Showcasing the progressive perspectives of these young physicians, this panel discussion focused on current challenges and anticipated trends within the field. Additionally, this insightful session highlighted how COVID-19 has changed how we work, presented new challenges and further revealed a pressing need to increase the awareness of rheumatology.
While the panelists agreed there is no clarity on what the future of rheumatology care will look like, all concurred the way we had done things pre-pandemic will not be the way we return to. COVID-19 has altered the innovative tools and strategies being used, increased the global use of social media, and directed us into new ways of working together for the foreseeable future.
One of the few advantages to COVID-19 is that the onboarding of several new models of care delivery through technologies, telehealth, and virtual visits has accelerated our efficiencies in rheumatology across the world. Still, there remains concern over the insufficient quality of medical care provided through telehealth.
The panel collectively agreed the primary challenge is our need to spread the awareness of rheumatology. It was noted that technicalities of rheumatology can be difficult even for colleagues to fully grasp. In order to work against misinformation, “we have to provide accurate, useful information in a way that goes viral.” We can no longer rely on 60-minute videos, but must learn how to utilize succinct high-quality information through social media to eliminate confusion and spread awareness more effectively.
Another concern is the need for advocacy on health disparities; governments should not be deciding who gets healthcare resources. Solutions discussed included advocating outside of healthcare circles and engaging government involvement to spark discussion of getting rheumatology into national budgets.
With no end in sight for the global state of our workforce shortage, there is a great need to expand rheumatology education to include all healthcare professionals.. Early diagnosis training for all non-rheumatology providers on when to refer patients to specialty care could alleviate the strain on resources caused by delayed care to patients. While training programs are available to non-rheumatology providers, encouraging participation is extremely difficult which brought the potential solution of incentivizing participation into question.
Patients do not always know their rheumatic disease is treatable. The pandemic has revealed an imperative need to share research across healthcare professions. To understand how these diseases present in other races, research models must share and publish all data globally. We need to not just share research within our tiny cohorts, but “improve information access with models like open access journals,” and share data more effectively between countries.
While COVID-19 has presented many challenges for rheumatology, innovations and technologies are now being embraced on a global scale. It was exciting to see the future of rheumatology through the eyes of a new generation of physicians.
Teri Puhalsky, BSN, RN, CRNI
Membership Development Chair Registered Nurse
Medstar Orthopaedic Institute
Teri Puhalsky currently resides in Maryland, where she works as an infusion RN at Medstar Orthopaedic Institute. She studied nursing at Excelsior College School of Nursing and has been practicing rheumatology since 2011. Teri received the Outstanding Clinical Performance Award as an LPN, obtained her CRNI in 2012, and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International PhiPi Chapter. She strives for positive patient outcomes and firmly believes that collaboration with the healthcare team is critical for chronic disease management. With a patient-focused and evidence-based nursing practice, she knows all patients can receive quality, safe, and effective care.
1Sebastian Herrera Uribe, MD, Associated Professor of Rheumatology at Universidad CES in Medellin, Columbia, and representative of PANLAR, Early career rheumatologists seek better awareness of the specialty through outreach, November 06, 2021, https://www.acrconvergencetoday.org/early-career-rheumatologists-seek-better-awareness-of-the-specialty-through-outreach/, ACR Convergence Today.
2Kim Lauper-Luong, MD, a rheumatologist and researcher at Geneva University Hospitals in Switzerland, representative of EULAR, Early career rheumatologists seek better awareness of the specialty through outreach, November 06, 2021, https://www.acrconvergencetoday.org/early-career-rheumatologists-seek-better-awareness-of-the-specialty-through-outreach/, ACR Convergence Today.