Is collaboration the key to improving lives of people living with psoriatic arthritis?

By Dr. Andreas Pinter, Consultant Dermatologist at the University Hospital Frankfurt, and Annette Gaul, nurse at the University Hospital Frankfurt.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a progressive and chronic immune-mediated disorder that affects an estimated 15.2 million people worldwide, who live with the burden of skin plaques, as well as inflamed and painful joints.  

Psoriatic arthritis can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. In fact, those diagnosed late carry an increased risk of permanent joint damage. Although there is no cure for it, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and with early diagnosis and prompt treatment, people living with psoriatic arthritis may be able to have a better quality of life with reduced pain and swelling and possibly even prevent further joint damage.

As healthcare professionals, we have a real opportunity to get people closer to their treatment goals and improve health outcomes by encouraging timely and accurate diagnosis. 

At the University Hospital Frankfurt, our goal is to do exactly that.

As people living with PsA often present with both joint and skin symptoms, they require the attention of both rheumatology and dermatology specialist teams. As such, we piloted a new management approach in 2017 by setting up a collaboration clinic at the University Hospital Frankfurt. The aim of this was to enable dermatologists and rheumatologists to see patients at the same time, to provide care for both skin and joint manifestations. 

These teams usually work individually, but we have brought them together every two weeks (for 2 hours) to provide integrated care specifically for people living with psoriatic arthritis. Furthermore, our specialised nurse who is the first point of contact for patients, supports the team in having more informed conversations, allowing a significant number of patients to be seen in a shorter time-frame. 

Our approach has encouraged accurate and quicker diagnosis for the patient. Furthermore, it has also provided specialists with the opportunity to learn from each other, which has been well received by our peers. 

The collaboration clinic was set up as a result of a simple discussion between two specialists and today we are extending the approach to all our surrounding areas. It’s all about taking that first step towards making a significant difference in improving the lives of people living with psoriatic arthritis – and once you start you will find that it is easy and quick to do.

We would therefore urge all healthcare professional organizations in PsA and European policymakers to consider ways in which you can coordinate efforts to provide more integrated care for people living with PsA, by spreading this collaborative model to other countries and setting an example for the management of chronic, complex diseases in Europe.

By joining hands, we can make all the difference.