How Do We Improve Patient Access to Care?

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Fifty-four million Americans are living with rheumatic disease, and this number is expected to reach sixty-seven million by 2030. While some patients can successfully manage their disease, many have difficulty completing daily tasks and need specialized care.

Estimates show there is only one rheumatologist for every 40,000 patients. This shortage means patients may have to travel farther or wait months to be seen by a clinician and receive medical treatment.

“During our rotations, we go to underserved areas and every time I brought up that I was interested in rheumatology, the first thing people said was, ‘You need to come back,’” said Vikas Majithia, MD, MPH, Division of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

By 2030, it’s estimated only six of every ten children and only four of every ten adults with rheumatic diseases will get timely and adequate access to care.

“We are facing a crisis. The shortage of rheumatologists is growing significantly,” said Majithia. “We are way behind the curve in producing rheumatologists as compared to what is needed with the growing patient population.”

Increasing the number of  rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, plays an important role in building and sustaining the field’s workforce.

The Rheumatology Research Foundation’s awards directly address this issue by helping recruit people into the field of rheumatology and providing training opportunities. For example, our Mentored Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant Award for Workforce Expansion supports training for those new to the rheumatology field.  Our Fellowship Training Award funds the training of a promising rheumatology fellow.

As a direct result of our efforts, over the last 5 years the Foundation has provided salary support for 145 rheumatology fellows nationwide and provided specialized rheumatology training to almost 60 nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

“The wonderful thing about the Foundation is that it supports so many different kinds of activities,” said Abby Abelson, MD (Past President) Cleveland Clinic. “Now we’re able to train many more people after their residencies and rheumatology fellowships and it’s really gratifying because supporting these fellowship positions, we’ve increased the number of rheumatologists who are going to be able to treat all the patients who are going to need rheumatologic care.”

Together, we can fill the gap in rheumatology patient care and improve the lives of those living with a rheumatic disease. Give to the Foundation now at