Objectives: Group consultations are used for chronic conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, but evidence of efficacy for treatment to target or achieving tight control is lacking. Our aim was to establish whether group consultation is a sustainable, co-designed routine care option and to explore factors supporting spread.
Methods: The study used mixed methods, observational process/outcome data, plus qualitative exploration of enabling themes. It was set in two community hospitals, in 2008-19, with a third hospital from 2016, and was triangulated with primary care qualitative data. There was a total of 3363 arthritis patient attendances at 183 clinics during 2008-19. The early arthritis cohort comprised 46 patients, followed monthly until the treatment target was achieved, during 2016-19. Focus groups included 15 arthritis and 11 osteoporosis group attendees. Intervention was a 2 h group consultation, attended monthly for early/active disease and annually for stable disease. Measurements included attendance, DAS, satisfaction and enabling themes.
Results: There was a mean number of 18.4 patients per clinic ( n = 16, 2010-15; n = 18, 2016; n = 20, 2017; n = 23, 2018-19). Forty per cent (1161/2874) of patients with DAS data reached low disease activity (DAS < 3.2) or remission (DAS < 2.6). Forty-six early arthritis patients followed monthly until they achieved remission responded even better: 50% remission; and 89% low disease activity/remission by 6 months. Qualitative analysis derived five main enabling themes (efficiency, empathy, education, engagement and empowerment) and five promotors to translate these themes into practice (prioritization, personalization, participation, personality and pedagogy). Limitations included the prospectively collected observational data and pragmatic design susceptible to bias.
Conclusion: Co-designed group consultations can be sustainable, clinically effective and efficient for monthly review of early active disease and annual review of stable disease. Promoting factors may support effective training for chronic disease group consultations.