Aim: This paper is a report of a study to evaluate the impact on office hours capacity, patient satisfaction, quality of life and costs of including a nurse practitioner in a multidisciplinary consultation team for patients with hand problems caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Background: Over 90% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis suffer symptoms in their hand joints and may be seriously disabled in performing daily, work or leisure activities. A recent promising development in the treatment of patients with a chronic disease is the co-ordinating and accompanying role of a nurse, such as a nurse practitioner, in a multidisciplinary treatment team.
Methods: A two successive group time-series design was adopted. The intervention group (n = 78) visited a clinic with a nurse practitioner assigned to the team during 2003-2004. The control group (n = 69) was seen before inclusion of the nurse practitioner. Office hours capacity, patient satisfaction, quality of life and costs were assessed using questionnaires directly after consulting the team, and 3 and 6 months later.
Results: Between-group comparisons of patient satisfaction and quality of life revealed no statistically significant differences. Changes within groups over time were not demonstrable. Mean office hour capacity increased by 17% (t = -1.906, d.f. = 32.879, P = 0.065). The costs for professional home care or informal care were equal in the two groups.
Conclusion: Evaluation of clinical practice using pre- and post-test design was impeded by changes in clinical practice, which made concrete conclusions difficult to draw. In future studies the satisfaction of participating clinicians should be evaluated, in addition to that of patients.