Background Patients with chronic inflammatory arthritis (CIA) treated with biological therapy are usually monitored by rheumatologists. Research shows that a nurse-led rheumatology clinic is safe and effective in monitoring biological therapy (1) and contributed added value in patients within rheumatology care, because the encounter with the nurse led to a sense of security, familiarity and participation (2).
Objectives To compare the cost of monitoring biological therapy in a nurse-led rheumatology clinic with those of a rheumatologist-led clinic in patients with low disease activity or in remission.
Methods Cost comparison was based on data from a 12 month randomised controlled trial (1). A total of 107 patients were randomly assigned to either a rheumatologist-led clinic or to a nurse-led rheumatology clinic. The purpose of the intervention was to replace one of two annual monitoring visits at the rheumatologist-led clinic (control group; n=54) by a visit to a nurse-led rheumatology clinic (intervention group; n=53), based on person-centred care. Inclusion criteria were ongoing biological therapy and Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28) ≤3.2. All patients met the rheumatologist at inclusion and after 12 months. All outpatient visits, team rehabilitation and all the telephone advice at the Rheumatology Clinic were registered for the patients who participated in the trial. Main outcome measures were direct costs related to rheumatology care during the 12 month follow-up period.
Results After 12 months 97 patients completed the study. At the inclusion the patients had mean age of 55.4 years, disease duration of 16.7 years, and DAS28 was 2.1, with no significant differences between the two groups. After 12 months there was no mean difference in changes in clinical outcome between the two groups (DAS28 -0.06; p=0.66). The total annual cost of team rehabilitation in rheumatology care, per patient monitored by the nurse-led rheumatology clinic was €580 compared with €1278 for monitoring by a rheumatologist-led clinic, translating in a €698 (55%) lower annual cost. The annual cost of just the outpatient rheumatology care provided by rheumatologist and rheumatology nurse, per patient was €457 for monitoring by the nurse-led rheumatology clinic compared with €598 for monitoring by a rheumatologist-led clinic, translating in a €141 (24%) lower annual cost.
Conclusions Patients with stable CIA undergoing biological therapy can be monitored more cost effectively by a nurse-led rheumatology clinic compared to a rheumatologist-led clinic, with no difference in clinical outcome as measured by DAS28.
Larsson et al. (2014). Randomized controlled trial of a nurse-led rheumatology clinic for monitoring biological therapy. J Adv Nurs, 70(1): 164-175.
Larsson et al. (2012). Patients' experiences of a nurse-led rheumatology clinic in Sweden – a qualitative study in patients undergoing biological therapy. Nurs Health Sci, 14(4): 501-507.
Disclosure of Interest None declared
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