Patient education in arthritis: randomized controlled trial of a mail-delivered program

J Rheumatol. 1997 Jul;24(7):1378-83.


Objective: Self-management courses in arthritis have been shown to improve outcomes and to decrease medical resource utilization. We studied the effectiveness of a mail-delivered arthritis self-management program with the potential for extending these effects more broadly.

Methods: Randomized controlled trial of 375 program participants and 434 controls over a 6 month period. Baseline and 6 month data were analyzed for each group and between groups by paired 2 sample t test. The intervention consists of health assessment questionnaires at 3 month intervals, with computer processed recommendation letters and reports individualized to age, diagnosis, education level, disability, pain, medication, and other patient-specific variables.

Results: At 6 months, outcomes of function (4.7%; 95% confidence limits 2.7, 6.7), decreased pain (9%; 2.8, 15.2), global vitality (7%; 2.8, 11.2), and joint count (28%; 20, 36) were improved in the program group compared with controls (p < 0.01). Exercise (35%; 26, 44) and self-efficacy (14.7%; 9, 20) were increased in the program group but not controls (p < 0.001). Doctor visits/year were decreased by 16% (3, 29) in the program group compared with controls (p < 0.05) and days missed work or confined to home decreased by 52% (-3, 107) in the program group compared with controls (p = 0.06). At one year, patients in the original program group continued to improve, and the control group, provided with the program in the second 6 months, showed improvement similar to the first 6 months of the original program group.

Conclusion: A mail-delivered arthritis self-management program can positively affect patient outcomes and can decrease medical resource utilization.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis / economics
  • Arthritis / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration
  • Postal Service*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Care / methods