To explore the medical care of individuals in rural areas during a public health awareness project on musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
A tour bus was adapted to accommodate rheumatological consultations at widely accessible sites in 16 towns, providing individual medical advice with respect to MSD. The participating rheumatologists assessed the nature (e.g. inflammatory/non inflammatory), extent and duration of MSD and, where possible, made a tentative diagnosis and gave further advice on the course of action. In addition, age, sex and pre-existing care were recorded. All individuals were asked to assess their own severity of pain using a numeric ordinal scale from “no” (0) to “extreme” (10).
A total of 647 individuals visited the service. Median current pain intensity was 5 (interquartile range [IQR] 3–6), mean 4.9 (standard deviation [SD] 2.3). Osteoarthritis was suspected in 381 clients (59.6%), inflammatory rheumatic disease in 247 (38.7%), and in 104 (16.3%) other diseases. 307 (50%) were treated by a GP, 95 (15.5%) were under orthopaedic care, 204 (33.2%) under rheumatological care and 81 (13.1%) under supervision of other specialists. 104 clients (17%) had never consulted a physician for their MSD symptoms before. 27 (4.2%) of all the clients had a newly detected inflammatory rheumatic disease and 62 (9.6%) patients with suspected inflammatory rheumatic disease were not under previous rheumatological care.
The findings showed that there is still a lot of negligence in awareness and knowledge of rheumatic diseases, at least in rural areas.