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Objective

To test an intervention for improving self-management in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using an online, cognitive–behavioral, self-management group program (RAHelp), with weekly telephone support.

Methods

A 2-group, randomized study design was used to compare an intervention for RA versus a waiting-list control condition. The intervention used a secure web site (RAHelp.org) to provide a 10-week program with weekly educational modules for improving self-efficacy in self-management of RA, plus tools for group interaction. Weekly telephone contacts were made to encourage use of program tools and apply newly learned skills. A nationwide convenience sample of 106 adult participants (mean age 50 years, 93% women) was recruited primarily through online advertisements. Main outcome measures included the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales 2 (affective, physical, role, social, and pain/symptom components), Arthritis Self-Efficacy Scale (ASES), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Quality of Life Scale (QLS), Rapid Assessment of Disease Activity in Rheumatology, Social Provisions Scale, and University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale 3.

Results

Group differences with large and moderate effect sizes (ES) were found immediately postintervention for self-efficacy (ASES; ES 0.92, P = 0.00001) and quality of life (QLS; ES 0.66, P = 0.003), respectively. At 9 months postintervention, differences in self-efficacy (ASES; ES 0.92, P = 0.00001) and quality of life (QLS; ES 0.71, P = 0.004) remained robust.

Conclusion

RAHelp appears to have beneficial effects in terms of self-efficacy and quality of life among individuals with RA who are willing to use an online service format.