Objectives: To compare the cost-effectiveness of three types of follow-up for outpatients with stable low-activity rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Method: In total, 287 patients were randomized to either planned rheumatologist consultations, shared care without planned consultations, or planned nurse consultations. Effectiveness measures included disease activity (Disease Activity Score based on 28 joint counts and C-reactive protein, DAS28-CRP), functional status (Health Assessment Questionnaire, HAQ), and health-related quality of life (EuroQol EQ-5D). Cost measures included activities in outpatient clinics and general practice, prescription and non-prescription medicine, dietary supplements, other health-care resources, and complementary and alternative care. Measures of effectiveness and costs were collected by self-reported questionnaires at inclusion and after 12 and 24 months. Incremental cost-effectiveness rates (ICERs) were estimated in comparison with rheumatologist consultations.
Results: Changes in disease activity, functional status, and health-related quality of life were not statistically significantly different for the three groups, although the mean scores were better for the shared care and nurse care groups compared with the rheumatologist group. Shared care and nurse care were non-significantly less costly than rheumatologist care. As both shared care and nurse care were associated with slightly better EQ-5D improvements and lower costs, they dominated rheumatologist care. At EUR 10,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) threshold, shared care and nurse care were cost-effective with more than 90% probability. Nurse care was cost-effective in comparison with shared care with 75% probability.
Conclusions: Shared care and nurse care seem to cost less but provide broadly similar health outcomes compared with rheumatologist outpatient care. However, it is still uncertain whether nurse care and shared care are cost-effective in comparison with rheumatologist outpatient care.