For Patients

This section contains information specifically for patients including descriptions of the roles of various members of the rheumatology healthcare team, condition and medication information including COVID-19 information. It also has a search function which enables patients to find a rheumatologist near them.

ARA Advice on Direct to Consumer Testing

The ARA recommends that consumers do not request/undertake blood tests for rheumatic diseases without the input of a medical practitioner. 

Several pathology companies are now offering blood tests that you can order online without a doctor’s referral. This is called direct to consumer (DTC) testing. These include blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis and other immune diseases for e.g. rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibodies (ANA), complements and inflammatory markers. 

These tests have no role in either screening the healthy population or as part of self-diagnosis. 

The ARA believes that such testing puts consumers at risk of overdiagnosis, underdiagnosis, psychological harm, and financial burden due to the cost of the testing. In addition, this testing increases the likelihood of subsequent additional tests with associated financial costs and physical and psychological risks. 

The ARA believes that DTC testing is against good medical practice and against recommendations from Choosing Wisely Australia which were adopted from the EVOLVE recommendations. We consider these DTC tests low value care that put consumers at considerable risk of harm.

Before you get any test, treatment or procedure you should ask your doctor the following 5 questions. 

Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
Tests may help you and your doctor or other health care provider determine the problem. Treatments, such as medicines, and procedures may help to treat it.

What are the risks?
Will there be side effects to the test or treatment? What are the chances of getting results that aren’t accurate? Could that lead to more testing, additional treatments or another procedure?

Are there simpler, safer options?
Are there alternative options to treatment that could work. Lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier foods or exercising more, can be safe and effective options.

What happens if I don't do anything?
Ask if your condition might get worse — or better — if you don’t have the test, treatment or procedure right away.

What are the costs?
Costs can be financial, emotional or a cost of your time. Where there is a cost to the community, is the cost reasonable or is there a cheaper alternative?

These questions were developed by Choosing Wisely Australia.