Telecare cuts osteoarthritis pain, study shows

Self care for osteoarthritis supported by telephone advice can reduce pain compared to conventional care, US research suggests.

Regular self-care education by telephone, with an agreed action plan, reduced pain from the condition compared to usual care or general health education, researchers found.

The team from Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in North Carolina said the findings supported using telephone-based education to manage the condition.

Attendance at clinic-based, self-management programmes is poor: only about 10% of patients with arthritis reported having taken a class, researchers said.

To test whether telephone-based services may improve outcomes, researchers recruited 461 patients with osteoarthritis.

Of these, 174 patients were randomised to receive self-management care. This involved monthly telephone-based discussions with a health educator, written and audio material and an agreed action plan.

The remaining patients received either general health education, including monthly telephone calls, or standard care.

Researchers measured patients’ experience of pain using standard scoring at baseline and 12 months.

After one year, patients receiving self-management education reported reduced pain compared to both usual care and general health education.

Authors said behavioural approaches such as exercise or weight management for managing osteoarthritis are underutilised.

They concluded: ‘Our results show that telephone-based administration of such programmes should be a key component of an overall strategy for dissemination.’

Such schemes are more readily integrated into clinical practice than face-to-face schemes and can more easily reach vulnerable and hard-to-reach patient groups, they added.

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