Objective: Evidence that patient education improves outcome in self-selected patients is often based on studies using patients with a mixture of diagnoses (primarily osteoarthritis) and where the education is delivered in a community setting. This study explored whether hospital outpatients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were offered a self-management programme showed a similar response.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial was undertaken of either observation or observation plus an educational intervention of five sessions (12.5 hours) designed to enhance self-management. Pain and self-efficacy for pain were the primary outcome measures. These and other standardized assessments were made at 0, 4, 8 and 36 weeks for a variety of psychological and disease states. Knowledge of RA and its treatment was measured at 0 and 4 weeks using a multiple-choice questionnaire.
Results: Sixty-eight of 79 randomized patients provided adequate data. In those randomized to be offered education, knowledge of RA and its treatment increased by 18% compared to 9% in controls (p = 0.058). Self-efficacy for pain improved between weeks 0 and 4 by 10.3% (p = 0.015) in those offered education, and by 14.1% in those who were offered and accepted education (p = 0.001) but the difference from controls was not maintained after four weeks. There were no significant differences between groups in pain or in any of the remaining variables. Most patients reported that the education had been helpful.
Conclusions: Patients offered education gained knowledge and reported personal benefit, but only improved in self-efficacy for pain and only for a short time. RA patients drawn from hospital outpatient clinics and allocated to an educational intervention may not gain changes in health status as measured by the instruments employed in this study.
Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.