Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of an educational program for patients with rheumatoid arthritis in relation to their knowledge about the disease and to their psychosocial and physical health status.
Materials and methods: The study included patients with rheumatoid arthritis classified according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria without any previous participation in disease-specific educational programs. The patients were randomly assigned to an educational program intervention or a waiting list. The intervention was a 6-week educational program consisting of weekly sessions lasting 1 hour each. Evaluations by a blind assessor were made prior to intervention and after 45, 90 and 180 days. The main outcome variables were the Patient Knowledge Questionnaire and the Short-form Health Survey (SF-36) quality of life questionnaire. Secondary outcome variables were the Health Assessment Questionnaire, Visual Analogue Pain Scale, Beck Depression Inventory and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.
Results: Patients in the intervention group (n=28) had significant improvement in disease-specific knowledge compared to patients in control group (n=30). There was no significant difference between the groups in terms of pain, depression, anxiety or functional capacity, but the "general health perception" subscale of SF-36 showed a significant improvement in the intervention group (p=0.041). There was a positive correlation between improvement of disease-specific knowledge and schooling.
Conclusion: Patients who attended the educational program had significant improvement in disease-specific knowledge and general health perception. No harmful effects on their psychosocial status were noticed. The acquisition of knowledge was also found to be proportional to schooling.