EULAR refocuses on coalface patient care

3 minute read

The opening session of EULAR 2023 included a brand new four-point strategy to guide the organisation until 2028.

For years, the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology has been defined primarily by its scientific and clinical excellence. Now, its leaders have signalled a change.

Speaking at the annual EULAR Congress opening plenary on Wednesday, president Professor Annamaria Iagnocco announced a new strategic direction for the organisation.

The strategy, intended to see the organisation through to 2028, rests on four main pillars: leadership, professional development, communities and income stream.

While the latter three appear to have little direct impact on the Australian rheumatology community, EULAR’s pivot on how it defines industry leadership may have wider implications.

In recent years, professional bodies that focus only on analysing community needs for specific conditions – for instance, in the spondyloarthritis space, the Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international society (ASAS) and the Spondyloarthritis Research and Treatment Network (SPARTAN) – have picked up steam.

Writing for Rheumatology Republic at last year’s American College of Rheumatology conference, Perth-based rheumatologist Dr Maxine Isbel said that EULAR has run the difficult gauntlet of establishing classification criteria and validating novel imaging modalities.

“By necessity they have focussed on the refinement of a clinical definition of ankylosing spondylitis,” Dr Isbel wrote.

“As a result, perhaps engagement at the coal face was deprioritised for a time, and they have moved away from translational research.

“These choices have consequences, one of which is that ASAS output in terms of education, assessment tools and apps is formidable to say the least.”

According to Dr Isbel, because SPARTAN did not have to define ankylosing spondylitis it was free to court the experiences of practitioners and allied health engaging in care of AS patients outside of the tertiary centre of excellence.

EULAR immediate past president Professor Iain McInnes acknowledged that while EULAR has long prioritised research, the innovations in clinical care and practice that EULAR researchers produce can only be measured in the community.

“In this strategy period, EULAR’s goal is to bridge the implementation gap between the science in its totality and day-to-day patient care,” he said.

On a practical level, Professor McInnes said, achieving this goal will mean expanding EULAR’s partnerships beyond the rheumatology field.

“For our amazing, successful future why not bring in the best minds across diverse disciplines from AI to the humanities and everything in between to address the urgent, compelling these of the most important people of all people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases?”

The 2023 EULAR congress is being held at Milan’s MiCo Convention Centre between 31 May and 3 June, with around 14,000 delegates from 131 countries in attendance.

The countdown to the Opening Plenary. Photo by Holly Payne

The four-day program includes 206 sessions and over 1000 posters, with topics ranging from sex and intimacy to artificial intelligence in rheumatology.

Despite the geographic distance from Europe, Australia has a strong presence at EULAR this year.

No less than 20 Australian rheumatology researchers are on the program covering eight presentations and 14 posters.

The 2024 conference will be held between 12 and 15 June in the Austrian city of Vienna, with abstract submissions opening in October.

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