Introduction: The objective of this study was to assess the effects of an educational program on the course of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) after 3 years.
Methods: From December 2002 to December 2003, 39 RA patients participated in a 3-day education program delivered to groups of four or five patients. Effects of the program were evaluated after 3 years in 33 patients, comparatively to baseline, based on the following variables: knowledge of RA (self-questionnaire), disease activity (DAS 28), functional impairment (health assessment questionnaire [HAQ]) and quality of life (arthritis impact measurement scale 2 [AIMS2], short-form). We also compared patient knowledge in the educational program participants and in 38 controls with RA. Direct questions were used to evaluate the program after 3 years.
Results: Patient knowledge 3 years after the education program was significantly improved compared to baseline (P<0.0001) and was significantly better than in the controls (P<0.0001). Disease activity was significantly lower in the education group after 3 years than at baseline (DAS28, 3.1 vs. 3.8, P<0.005). Neither the HAQ nor the AIMS2 scores changed significantly after 3 years compared to baseline. The replies to the direct questions indicated a very high level of overall satisfaction with the educational program.
Conclusion: An educational program tailored to patient needs can produce lasting improvements in knowledge of the disease and may help to control the activity of RA. These results warrant the development of education programs for patients with chronic inflammatory joint disease.