LONDON – The first European guidelines developed to help the transition of young people from pediatric to adult rheumatology care within Europe were announced at the European Congress of Rheumatology.
The key aim of the guidelines, which have been jointly written by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PReS), is to make the transition process more consistent across rheumatology practices throughout Europe, which in turn should help to ensure both the continuity and the quality of clinical care, explained Dr. Helen E. Fosterof Newcastle (England) University.
“There is evidence that there has been a long-standing problem of young people growing up with their condition moving to adult care and either falling between the services or being lost to follow-up, or there has not been continuity of care,” she said in an interview ahead of presenting the new EULAR/PReS guidelines at the congress.
“All in all, that’s translated into poorer health outcomes for young people,” said Dr. Foster, who was one of the main convenors of the EULAR/PReS Working Party for Transitional Care Management for Adolescents and Young People.
The premise is to try to provide practical recommendations that clinicians can use to help young people in their care from the age of 11 years and older as they get ready for the transfer to adult services. The latter process can occur anywhere from 16 to 19 years of age, Dr. Foster said, but it is important to try start the transition process early and get young people more involved and responsible for their own care.
“The idea is that young people are supported to be in control of their condition, that they can cope with being seen on their own in clinic, that they are getting on with their lives, and ultimately that they have a better outcome, which includes becoming healthy, getting a job, living independently, and having a family,” she said. The age at transfer is flexible and needs to fit with the young person’s home and school life. Ideally, it occurs at a time when their disease and medication are stable, they are attending routine appointments, and generally able to be independent and cope with their condition.
EULAR/PReS transition guidelines: 12 recommendations
• Access to high-quality coordinated transition care services should be available to all young people.
• Transition should ‘start early’ (11 years of age) or directly after diagnosis.
• Direct communication is needed between young people and their families and pediatric and adult care providers.
• Each young person should have an individualized transition plan.
• There should be a written transition policy within all relevant services; this should be regularly agreed and updated.
• The multidisciplinary team involved in transitional care should be clearly defined in a written document.
• Transition services should address the complexity of adolescent and young adult development.
• There must be an agreed upon and written transfer document.
• Health care teams should be given appropriate training in adolescent and young adult rheumatic diseases.
• Secure funding is needed for uninterrupted clinical care and transition into adult services.
• An open digital platform should host the recommendations and support tools and information.
• More evidence is needed to demonstrate the outcomes of the transition to adult services.
Developing the guidelines
Together with Dr. Kirsten Minden of the German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin (DRFZ), Dr. Foster chaired the international, multidisciplinary EULAR/PReS Working Party to review existing national and international guidelines, consensus statements, and other supporting evidence on transitional care management in childhood-onset rheumatic illness.
The remit was to develop recommendations to facilitate optimal transitional care management in rheumatology across different European countries. As such, the recommendations cover both the ideal situation as well as the bare minimum requirements to hopefully allow widespread adoption. To this end, the working party performed a systematic literature review according to EULAR standard operating procedures. They developed a set of 12 recommendations based on the evidence they reviewed.
There are 47 different health systems within Europe, all running according to different health policies set by different governments, Dr. Minden observed. In fact, only a handful of countries have specific transition care policies or pathways, so the aim was to try to develop recommendations that would work across the board while giving some ideas on how to improve existing strategies further.
She noted that some examples of existing transition programs are “Growing up and moving on” in the United Kingdom (Pediatr Transplant. 2005;9:364-72), “On your own feet ahead” in the Netherlands (BMC Health Serv Res. 2014;14:47), and “Devices for Optimization of Transfer and Transition of Adolescents with Rheumatic Disorders (DON’T RETARD)” in Belgium (Rheumatology [Oxford]. 2016;55:133-42). Of these, two are specific to the transition of young people with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and one is for rheumatologic conditions in general.