Quality of care for individuals with osteoarthritis: a longitudinal study


Dr Gretl A. McHugh, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Work, The University of Manchester, Jean McFarlane Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK, E-mail: gretl.mchugh@manchester.ac.uk


Objectives  The objectives of this paper were to investigate quality of care for individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) and to determine if those most in need had the outcome of a total joint replacement (TJR). Key quality indicators were involvement in treatment decisions, appropriate information provision and outcomes of care.

Methods  A longitudinal study was conducted on individuals newly referred to an orthopaedic specialist at one hospital in North West England. A total of 268 participants were recruited consecutively and followed up at 3, 6 and 12 months. Validated measurement tools such as, a Visual Analogue Scale for pain and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) assessed pain and physical functioning. Mean scores on the outcome measures were estimated and plotted over time by joint affected and whether or not the participant had a TJR by 12 months.

Results  Most participants (82%) felt that they were involved in the decision about their care, although 21% reported that they had not received a diagnosis of OA. Information was not provided on OA, pain management and exercise to 58%, 65% and 57% of participants, respectively. However, 98% of the 109 having a TJR reported receiving information about the procedure. Among the 118 known not to have had a TJR, pain and physical functioning remained relatively stable over time.

Conclusion  It appears that patients with the most severe symptoms of pain and physical functioning were selected for TJR. However, care for individuals with OA could be improved by providing standard information on OA in general and pain management and exercise. In particular, effective strategies for the implementation of the research evidence and guidelines are required to improve quality of care.