Using qualitative methods, we conducted two focus groups in January 2017 with RA patients residing in the Atlanta, GA metropolitan area. A survey research company was engaged to screen and enroll potential study participants. Patients 18 years or older with a self-reported diagnosis of moderate or severe rheumatoid arthritis (Stage 2, 3, or 4) were eligible to participate in the study. Participants were also required to speak, read, and write English fluently and to have received disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics within the past 5 years.
Each focus group lasted 90 minutes, was led by a trained facilitator and audio recorded to ensure that the thoughts, opinions, and experiences shared by the participants were accurately captured. The discussion guide was designed to investigate patients’ treatment decisions from the emergence of initial symptoms and the diagnostic experience through disease maintenance and monitoring. Participants were also asked about the utility of a web tool to help with decision-making. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and analyzed utilizing thematic analysis by project team members with graduate training in qualitative data analysis to identify factors in treatment decision making that RA patients considered most important and to determine which aspects of care were most relevant.