Abstract

The use of a coordinated team of allied health professionals (AHPs) to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis assigned to experimental groups (EG) and comparison groups (CG) was assessed. The EG patients were evaluated regularly by each AHP team member, whereas CG patients were seen by AHPs only upon referral. Of the 10 EG and 13 CG patients who remained in the study for 2 years, the EG patients initially exhibited somewhat greater disease activity than CG (as reflected by erythrocyte sedimentation rate and duration of morning stiffness). After 2 years, EG patients demonstrated less disease activity than at the outset, whereas CG patients either showed little change in these parameters or deteriorated during the study. Grip strength, which was initially similar in the two groups, improved in EG patients but decreased in CG patients, so that after 2 years a significant difference was noted between the two groups (p < .05). Tendency to lose hand range of motion was also greater in CG than in EG patients. Some EG patients showed improvement in finger flexion deformities during the study. Furthermore, EG patients showed a greater tendency to acquire positive attitudes regarding themselves and family relationships. These results suggest that ongoing “team care” may be more efficacious than episodic use of AHPs in management of patients with mild rheumatoid arthritis.

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