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The importance of research study and how you can help improve health care

Research in health is essential to find out which treatments and services work best for patients.

Research plays an important role in discovering new treatments, and making sure that existing treatments and services are being used in the best possible ways. Research can find answers to things that are unknown, filling gaps in knowledge and changing the way that healthcare professionals work. Ultimately, high-quality clinical research helps to improve future healthcare.1

Here, we take a look at a recent study conducted by the University of Western Australia (UWA) on the “Podiatric condition and level of care of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in Western Australia.”

The study was led by Renee Silvester, Doctor of Podiatry and Researcher at the Podiatric Medicine Unit, UWA and her team; Deborah Lai-Tong, Dona Samarasekara, Jo Yenn Koh and Lydia Baldwinson.

What was the study about?

Podiatric intervention (foot care) to manage the symptoms of the RA foot includes routine nail and skin care (such as debridement of corns and calluses), managing musculoskeletal foot problems (such as performing corticosteroid injections or ultrasound therapy), implementing exercise programs, recommending changes to footwear as well as providing insoles, padding or customised orthotic devices. However, there is very limited evidence regarding how much foot care is substantial for a patient with RA

The purpose of the study was to assess the podiatric (foot) health and level of care that patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) currently receive in Western Australia. The study addressed the following research questions:
a) Are the podiatric needs of RA patients in Western Australia being properly addressed and met?
b) Are Western Australian RA patients aware of the podiatric treatment they can, and should, receive?
c) What barriers, if any, do these patients perceive to receiving adequate podiatric care?

What was involved?

Participants were recruited throughout WA. They underwent an assessment with the research team to collect data such as age, gender, living situation, current pain levels and function which was measured by simple questionnaires. The researchers also assessed the participants’ feet to determine if there were any structural deformities and provided a footwear review. They also learned about the patients’ own perceptions of foot care through telephone interviews and the researchers then used the responses to look for emerging themes.

Why was this research study important?

It is important that comprehensive podiatric care is commenced as early as possible to reduce pain, maintain or improve foot function and prevent the development of new deformities.

The foot is usually the first part of the body to be significantly affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Approximately one-third of presenting complaints from patients are of foot pathology associated with RA. Moreover, foot pathology is the main cause of impaired mobility in 25% of RA patients and contributes to walking impediments in the remaining 75%.

Why do people take part in research studies?

People agree to take part in research studies for a range of reasons. Some people want to learn about ways they could possibly improve their own personal health, and others participate to help further knowledge of scientific research and medical care.

What were the results and outcomes?

The results from the study are currently being analysed. We are interested to find out who is accessing podiatric care and who is not. We are also interested to determine the degree of deformity, pain and function levels and evaluate how this relates to patients’ required level of foot health care. We would love to see a dedicated rheumatology podiatry service established in Western Australia. The findings from this study will hopefully paint the picture of what is currently being done and what needs to be done to service the foot health needs of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Reference:
1. Pat.nhs.uk. (2018). Why is Research Important? [online] Available at: http://www.pat.nhs.uk/education-and-research/why-is-research-important.htm

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