To assess the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of educational interventions for patients with diabetes, compared with usual care or other educational interventions.
Electronic databases, reference lists and experts were all consulted in this study. Sponsor submissions to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence were also reviewed.
Electronic databases were searched, references of all retrieved articles were checked for relevant studies, and experts were contacted for advice and peer review and to identify additional published and unpublished references. Randomised clinical trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) were included if they fulfilled pre-specified criteria, among which was follow-up from inception for 12 months or longer. Data were synthesised through a narrative review because the diversity of studies prevented a meta-analysis.
Twenty-four studies (18 RCTs and six CCTs) that compared education with either a control group or with another educational intervention were included. The quality of reporting and methodology was generally found to be poor by today's standards. As part of treatment intensification, education in Type 1 diabetes (four studies) resulted in significant and long-lasting improvements in metabolic control and reductions in complications. In Type 2 diabetes (16 studies) a diversity of educational programmes did not yield consistent results on measures of metabolic control. Inconsistent results on metabolic control were also found in studies of diabetes of either type (four studies), with studies of lower quality producing significant effects. Few studies evaluated quality of life. Economic evaluations comparing education with usual care or other educational interventions were not identified.
Education as part of intensification of treatment produces improvement in diabetic control in Type 1 diabetes. Mixed results in Type 2 diabetes mean that no clear characterisation is possible as to what features of education may be beneficial. Cost analysis and information from sponsor submissions indicated that where costs associated with patient education were in the region of 500-600 pounds sterling per patients, the benefits over time would have to be very modest to offer an attractive cost-effectiveness profile. Further research should focus on RCTs with clear designs based on explicit hypotheses and with a range of outcomes evaluated after long follow-up intervals.