OBJECTIVE: To study the effectiveness of an intensive small group education and peer review programme aimed at implementing national guidelines on asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) on care provision by general practitioners (GPs) and on patient outcomes. DESIGN: A randomised experimental study with pre-measurement and post-measurement (after one year) in an experimental group and a control group in Dutch general practice. SUBJECTS AND INTERVENTION: Two groups of GPs were formed and randomised. The education and peer review group (17 GPs with 210 patients) had an intervention consisting of an interactive group education and peer review programme (four sessions each lasting two hours). The control group consisted of 17 GPs with 223 patients (no intervention). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Knowledge, skills, opinion about asthma and COPD care, presence of equipment in practice; actual performance about peakflow measurement, non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatment; asthma symptoms (Dutch Medical Research Council), smoking habits, exacerbation ratio, and disease specific quality of life (QOL-RIQ). Data were collected by a written questionnaire for GPs, by self recording of consultations by GPs, and by a written self administered questionnaire for adult patients with asthma/COPD. RESULTS: Data from 34 GP questionnaires, 433 patient questionnaires, and recordings from 934 consultations/visits and 350 repeat prescriptions were available. Compared with the control group there were only significant changes for self estimated skills (+16%, 95% confidence interval 4% to 26%) and presence of peakflow meters in practice (+18%, p < 0.05). No significant changes were found for provided care and patient outcomes compared with the control group. In the subgroup of more severe patients, the group of older patients, and in the group of patients not using anti-inflammatory medication at baseline, no significant changes compared with the control group were seen in patient outcomes. CONCLUSION: Except for two aspects, intensive small group education and peer review in asthma and COPD care do not seem to be effective in changing relevant aspects of the provided care by GPs in accordance with guidelines, nor in changing patients' health status.
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