Conference Coverage

Swedish OA self-management program earns high marks



– A Swedish national primary care–centered self-management program for patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis (OA) resulted in clinically meaningful improvements through 1 year of follow-up in an observational registry study of 47,035 participants, Therese S. Jönsson reported at the OARSI 2019 World Congress.

Therese S. Jönsson, a PhD student at Lund (Sweden) University Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Therese S. Jönsson

“The BOA [Better management of patients with Osteoarthritis] program is feasible and demonstrates positive results in a large clinical context. Our results indicate that offering this intervention as the first-line treatment for patients with hip and knee osteoarthritis may reduce the burden of disease,” she said at the meeting, sponsored by the Osteoarthritis Research Society International.

Indeed, the results of the Swedish BOA program for nonsurgical treatment of OA played an influential role in the new draft of OARSI guidelines for management of knee osteoarthritis. The program could serve as a template for implementation of a similar approach in other health care settings. The BOA program has been rolled out to more than 700 Swedish primary care practice sites, according to Ms. Jönsson, a PhD student at Lund (Sweden) University.

The program was created to meet a defined national goal that, as early as possible in the course of the disease, every Swedish patient with knee or hip OA should receive education about their disease and the importance of exercise as a means of improving their quality of life. The impetus for BOA was a widespread concern that, in Sweden and elsewhere, far too many OA patients were being referred for joint surgery without ever having tried the evidence-based core nonsurgical treatments.

The BOA intervention

Following patient referral by a primary care physician, the Swedish BOA program starts off with individual assessment and biomechanical testing by a physical therapist. This is followed by two small-group education sessions of about 90 minutes led by a physical therapist or occupational therapist. Session one includes information about the pathology of OA, risk factors, symptoms, and the available treatments. Session two focuses on coping skills, self-management strategies to reduce pain and symptoms, the central role of exercise as a core treatment in OA, and ways to incorporate physical activity into daily living.

Then comes a decision point. Having listened to a motivational message extolling the benefits of exercise as a means of empowering self-management of their chronic disease, participants next have three choices: They can attend supervised group exercise classes twice weekly for 6 weeks to kick-start a more physically active lifestyle, they can start an individually adapted home exercise program, or they can decline exercise.

Giving patients a choice in this matter is a strategy rooted in the psychological concept of motivational stages of change, which recognizes that some patients with a chronic illness whose course is modifiable through lifestyle change are initially in a precontemplation stage of change. And pushing them hard at that point is counterproductive. The home exercise option, which permits patients to take a low-and-slow approach to exercise, is based upon the BOA program developers’ stated philosophy that 5 minutes of exercise daily, performed as part of everyday life, has a bigger impact upon function than does a 30-minute exercise program that’s abandoned after a few weeks. The goal of the BOA program is for patients to eventually build up to at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.


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