Whilst previous research has looked at the reasons why patients might delay help-seeking retrospectively, by interviewing and surveying people with established RA, the RAPID project investigated perceptions and knowledge of RA amongst members of the general public without RA. Using interviews and surveys we further looked at how people would respond to experiencing the first symptoms of RA and investigated why people might or might not seek help for the symptoms of RA. Comparisons were also made with other illnesses such as bowel cancer and angina to understand better whether certain symptoms are easier to recognise and are associated with more rapid help seeking than others.
This research has given us a better understanding of how people might react when they are in the very early stages of RA, something which might be difficult for patients to remember retrospectively. The findings show that people often fail to recognise their symptoms as being indicative of a serious underlying condition. For example, symptoms are often confused with those of osteoarthritis or simply ascribed to getting older. The symptoms of diseases such as bowel cancer and angina on the other hand, are readily recognised and deemed serious enough to seek help promptly. Furthermore, due to recent public health campaigns, most people understand the potential consequences of ignoring the symptoms of bowel cancer and angina. It is likely that the misunderstandings surrounding the symptoms of RA will lead people to delay help-seeking.
Two scientific publications based on the interview data are already available and write-ups of the survey data and further interviews are currently underway.
1) Simons, G, Mason, A, Falahee, M, Kumar, K , Mallen, CD, Raza, K and Stack, R (2016). Qualitative exploration of illness perceptions of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the General Public. Musculoskeletal Care. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/msc.1135/abstract
2) Simons, G., Kumar, K., Mallen, C.D., Stack, R.J., &Raza, K. (2015). A Qualitative Investigation of the Barriers to Help-seeking Among Members of the Public Presented with Symptoms of New-onset Rheumatoid Arthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology DOI: 10.3899/jrheum.140913 http://www.jrheum.org/content/42/4/585.long