A low-intensity combined patient and doctor intervention may help to improve physical function and physical activity for patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis. The research is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Adequate management of hip and knee osteoarthritis requires both medical and behavioral strategies, but recommended therapies are underused. Researchers sought to determine if a combined patient and provider intervention could improve osteoarthritis outcomes.

Researchers randomly assigned 300 patients and providers at a cluster of 30 VA outpatient clinics to either an intervention group plus usual care or usual care alone. The telephone-based patient intervention focused on weight management, physical activity, and cognitive behavioral pain management. The provider intervention involved delivery of patient-specific osteoarthritis treatment recommendations to primary care providers through electronic medical records.

At 12 months, patients in the intervention group reported modest improvements in physical function and physical activity, two important components of osteoarthritis management. Providers in the intervention group increased use of proven therapies, especially referrals for behavioral and rehabilitative programs. The authors note that the intervention was low-intensity. They suggest that higher-intensity interventions are needed to make more meaningful improvements in outcomes.