Conference Coverage

Keeping up to date at the Florida Society of Rheumatology annual meeting


The Florida Society of Rheumatology is an excellent state conference that is very well attended because of the comprehensive clinical topics covered by esteemed faculty. Every year, there is a balance of patient care lectures and updates in advocacy, billing, and coding. Clinicians need a combination of both arenas to be successful with the day-to-day practice of rheumatology and to render evidenced-based patient care. This year, the FSR certainly delivered on this mission as reflected by articles on these presentations published at MDedge Rheumatology. An added focus this year was how to leverage technology in a rheumatology practice to capture patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to better understand issues affecting our patient population and improve therapy plans where indicated.

Dr. Elana M. Oberstein of the Univesity of Miami Health System

Dr. Elana M. Oberstein

In his lecture on digital PROs, Jeffrey Curtis, MD, explained the difference between active capture of data through tools such as the Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3 (RAPID3) or Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and passive capture through wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple watch. A key point for the audience was that this information improves clinical care and improves medical decision making, and thus all rheumatologists should consider using these tools in practice. Dr. Curtis, William J. Koopman Endowed Professor in Rheumatology and Immunology and director of the UAB Arthritis Clinical Intervention Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is well aware of the practical concerns that face clinicians, namely that this is time consuming. He suggests to keep it short and find a tool that works for you in your practice to understand how your patients are progressing on a treatment regimen. He was clear that “data for the sake of data is not compelling for patients [or clinicians].” The ideal is not to paralyze your practice and drown in patient questionnaires but rather to empower patients to report using standardized tools so we can effect change that will help us to treat rheumatic diseases.

An important point mentioned during this lecture was to keep in mind that, if a patient appears to be a “nonresponder” on RAPID3, for example, it is important to understand whether the patient has a confounding comorbidity, such as fibromyalgia, that may account for the limited improvement.

Michelle Petri, MD, gave two excellent talks at FSR this year. Her lectures are packed with excellent pearls about treating patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Interestingly, she said to never underestimate the prognostic factor of a low C3. This can indicate a worse clinical course is ahead. In addition, she reminds us as clinicians to protect the kidneys of our lupus patients who have renal disease by avoiding common toxins such as NSAIDs and CT contrast. Of course, she reminds us to use the lowest dose of steroids possible during flares, as prednisone is directly or indirectly responsible for 80% of organ damage over 15 years. She reminds us that lupus patients do not die of lupus. They have a 2.66-fold higher risk of cardiovascular events than the general public. In addition to maintaining lupus patients on hydroxychloroquine, Dr. Petri, professor of medicine and director of the Hopkins Lupus Center at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, noted that vitamin D can have cardiovascular and hematologic benefits along with reducing thrombosis in some clinical studies. Low vitamin D was significantly associated with deep venous thrombosis.

In his lecture, Leonard Calabrese, DO, made a compelling argument for the rheumatologists in the audience to call the local oncologists with whom they work. We need to discuss and collaborate on the care of patients experiencing immune-mediated adverse events from exposure to checkpoint inhibitors used to treat malignancy. There is a limited mechanistic understanding of these adverse events, but as rheumatologists we need to get involved and help these patients. We are the experts in managing these newly emerging autoimmune events. We can help to create the best possible therapeutic interventions to help our oncology colleagues with these challenging cases, Dr. Calabrese, professor of medicine and chair of clinical immunology at the Cleveland Clinic, said.

Besides paying our dues to be members of the FSR, it is important for us as rheumatologists to get involved at the state legislature and national level to bring about change for our practices and patients. Currently, the climate can be hostile for reimbursement and for our patients to get the therapies they need. In another presentation, Angus Worthing, MD, chair of the American College of Rheumatology’s Government Affairs Committee, described recent successes at the national level, and he also discussed how we can have our voices heard at the state and national level to protect our profession and the people who rely on our expertise. The FSR and other state rheumatology organizations, as well as the ACR, need our support to continue to be the collective voice for what is right for clinicians and patients alike.

Dr. Oberstein is a practicing rheumatologist at the University of Miami Health System and is senior medical director of musculoskeletal at Modernizing Medicine in Boca Raton, Fla. She has no relevant disclosures to report.

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