Objectives: Fast-track clinics (FTC) have been introduced in different fields and have been reporting significant outcomes in terms of reducing mortality, morbidity, and financial costs. To date, scarce evidence is available for FTC specific for patients suspected of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). The primary aim of our paper is to provide an overview of the clinical impact of PMR on patients and the healthcare system by analysing multiple aspects: the median time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis and the burden of the disease both on the healthcare system costs and on patients' quality of life (QoL). Secondarily, based on these data, we aim to discuss the potential advantages and feasibility of a PMR FTC in everyday clinical practice.
Material and methods: We performed a narrative non-systematic review (PRISMA protocol not followed) of PubMed and Medline (OVID interface) with the following MeSH terms: [polymyalgia rheumatica AND diagnosis OR diagnosis, delayed OR patient care OR early diagnosis OR length of stay OR costs OR healthcare system OR quality of life] or [polymyalgia rheumatica AND glucocorticoids AND side effects]. We decided to exclude every paper that did not report raw data in terms of diagnostic time or delay, hospitalization rate, socio-economic costs on the healthcare system, patients' QoL, and glucocorticoids-related events in PMR patients. Papers focused primarily on giant cell arteritis patients with overlapping PMR were also excluded. Abstract archives of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) congresses of the last 10 years were screened and included in the search if raw data were available. Each paper's reference list was scanned for additional publications meeting this study's aims. When papers reported data partially presented in previous articles, we opted to use the most recently published data.
Results: According to our literature review, a PMR FTC might lighten the burden of the disease. Nevertheless, its feasibility depends mostly on the resources of the national health system and of the territorial health district, which are heterogeneously limited. The usefulness of PMR FTCs depends on closer collaboration with the general practitioner because he/she is the first clinician to visit patients with PMR.
Conclusions: Polymyalgia rheumatica fast-track clinics might lighten the burden of the disease. However, it has some limits that should carefully assessed in planning health policies.