Effects of disease management programs on functional status of patients with rheumatoid arthritis




To perform a systematic review of the published literature on disease management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to use metaanalysis to estimate the magnitude of benefit these programs have on functional status in patients with RA.


Computerized databases for English articles from 1966 to September 2001 were searched. Two reviewers evaluated 1,029 published titles, identified 11 studies meeting explicit inclusion criteria, and extracted data about study characteristics, interventions used, and outcomes measured. Pooled effect sizes for functional status were calculated using a random-effects model.


Four out of 8 disease management programs showed significant improvements in functional status; however, the pooled effect size (ES) was small and statistically non-significant (ES 0.27; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] −0.01, 0.54). Studies with longer intervention durations (>5 weeks) had significantly improved patient functional status (ES 0.49; 95% CI 0.12, 0.86), compared with studies with shorter intervention durations (≤5 weeks, ES 0.13; 95% CI −0.25, 0.52).


There were limited data to support or refute the effectiveness of disease management programs in improving functional status in patients with RA. Additional studies are needed to confirm if a more intensive intervention may be of benefit to patients with RA, as suggested by our study.