Objective: To evaluate the variability in the characteristics and management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients between rheumatology attending physicians and training residents in Spain.
Methods: A retrospective medical record (MR) review was performed in a probabilistic sample of 1379 RA patients from 46 centres distributed in 16 of the 19 autonomous communities (AC) of Spain. RA patients' sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, healthcare resources use, and their single responsible physician's (defined as an identifiable single physician who attended the patient in more than 75% of visits) characteristics were recorded following a standardized protocol. Multivariate analyses were performed to assess differences in the characteristics and management of RA patients between attending physicians and training residents.
Results: A total of 1205 RA patients had a single responsible physician and were analysed (nearly 75% women with rheumatoid factor positive and more than 25% with persistent active disease), 49 of whom were followed by training residents and 1156 by attending physicians. In the multivariate analyses, irrespective of patient and disease characteristics, training residents' patients reported more hospital admissions, laboratory tests, and imaging techniques compared to attending physicians. Training residents also less frequently used combined therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Conclusion: Training residents and attending physicians differ in RA patients' care. More efforts in training programmes are necessary to guarantee proper RA management and to improve the profile of the future rheumatologists.