“There are still a lot of things that I need”: a qualitative study exploring opportunities to improve the health services of First Nations People with arthritis seen at an on-reserve outreach rheumatology clinic Loyola-Sanchez, Adalberto; Pelaez-Ballestas, Ingris; Crowshoe, Lynden; Lacaille, Diane; Henderson, Rita; Rame, Ana; Linkert, Tessa; White, Tyler; Barnabe, Cheryl
Background: Arthritis is a highly prevalent disease and leading cause of disability in the Indigenous population. A novel model of care consisting of a rheumatology outreach clinic in an on-reserve primary healthcare center has provided service to an Indigenous community in Southern Alberta since 2010. Despite quality assessments suggesting this model of care improves accessibility and is effective in meeting treatment targets, substantial improvements in patient-reported outcomes have not been realized. Therefore, the objective of this study was to explore the experiences of Indigenous persons with arthritis and healthcare providers involved in this model of care to inform the development of health service improvements that enhance patient outcomes. Methods: This was a narrative-based qualitative study involving a purposeful sample of 32 individuals involved in the Indigenous rheumatology model of care. In-depth interviews were conducted to elicit experiences with the existing model of care and to encourage reflections on opportunities to improve it. A two-stage analysis was conducted. The first stage aimed to produce a narrative synthesis of concepts through a dialogical method comparing people with arthritis and health providers’ narratives. The second stage involved a collective effort to synthesize concepts and propose specific recommendations to improve the quality of the current model of care. Triangulation, through participant checking and discussion among researchers, was used to increase the validity of the final recommendations. Results: Ten Indigenous people with arthritis lived experience, 14 health providers and 8 administrative staff were interviewed. One main overarching theme was identified, which reflected the need to provide services that improve people’s physical and mental functioning. Further, the following specific recommendations were identified: 1) enhancing patient-provider communication, 2) improving the continuity of the healthcare service, 3) increasing community awareness about the presence and negative impact of arthritis, and 4) increasing peer connections and support among people living with arthritis. Conclusions: Improving the quality of the current Indigenous rheumatology model of care requires implementing strategies that improve functioning, patient-provider communication, continuity of care, community awareness and peer support. A community-based provider who supports people while navigating health services could facilitate the implementation of these strategies.
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