for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
at San Francisco, California and other locations
study started
completion around



Shared decision making is the first overarching principle for the treat to target guidelines for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and has been proposed as a potential mechanism to reduce health disparities, however there is little evidence to inform effective ways to implement this practice in the care of Veterans with RA. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-component shared decision making intervention on RA disease activity, adherence to RA medications and patient knowledge of RA. The proposed research will contribute to fundamental knowledge about how to effectively foster shared decision making across varied VA rheumatology clinical settings to improve patient disease outcomes and experience; and support clinicians to engage patients in meaningful ways with the ultimate goal to improve health, reduce disability, and eliminate disparities.

Official Title

Implementation of Shared Decision Making in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Stepped Wedge, Cluster-randomized Trial


Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) impacts quality of life causing disability in up to 1% of the population and 2% of those 60 and older. Men with RA have twice the risk of death as the general population. Treatment decisions after failure with first-line methotrexate are complex, involve trade-offs in terms of harm, and require individualized decisions. In shared decision making (SDM), patients and clinicians work together to identify how to best address the patient's situation. SDM has been proposed as a way to reduce disparities, but uptake is suboptimal and no effective tools to foster SDM in a systematic way across VA exist.

Significance/Impact: Veterans with RA are disproportionately male, have more comorbidities, and higher mortality rates in comparison to the general population. SDM is the first principal of the RA treat to target guidelines. However, significant gaps in knowledge of effective interventions to support SDM exist - particularly in VA. This proposal is responsive to three VA HSR&D priority domains: 1) health care value, 2) quality of health care, and 3) health equity.

Innovation: Treatment studies in RA have focused primarily on white women, while men, who represent the VA RA population, have poorer outcomes. Targeting this subgroup to evaluate the impact of an SDM intervention on disease outcomes and adherence is novel. Use of a novel approach combining clinician training and a decision aid to recognize the unique needs of Veterans with RA is innovative.

Specific Aims: Aim 1: Evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-component SDM intervention in a stepped-wedge, cluster-randomized controlled trial on improvement in disease activity, RA knowledge, and adherence. Hypothesis 1: During SDM intervention phases, Veterans will have lower disease activity compared to during control periods and will be more likely to experience clinically important differences in a standard disease activity index. Hypothesis 2: Veterans will have greater RA knowledge and better adherence after exposure to this intervention. Exploratory Hypothesis: The SDM intervention will have a greater effect in the likelihood of lowering disease activity among racial/ethnic minorities and Veterans with limited health literacy. Aim 2: Evaluate effectiveness of a multi-component intervention to facilitate SDM. Hypothesis: An SDM intervention for Veterans with RA will result in higher uptake of SDM in enrolled clinics during the intervention phase, relative to control phase. Aim 3: Conduct a qualitative evaluation of the SDM intervention and local implementation to inform future dissemination.

Methodology: A stepped-wedge, cluster-randomized controlled trial design will be used to evaluate effectiveness of a novel SDM intervention across three sites. Participants: Veterans with RA and rheumatology clinicians; Intervention: multicomponent SDM intervention ; Control: participants at each site during the pre-intervention period; Outcomes: RA disease activity; patient-reported measures of adherence, knowledge, SDM, and an objective measure of SDM. Time: pre-intervention, intervention, and post-intervention phases for each step, measures collected over 42 months.

Implementation/Next Steps: The proposed effectiveness study has the potential to speed the translation of SDM research within VA and nationally to improve quality of care for all persons with RA.


Rheumatoid Arthritis, shared decision making, rheumatology, Arthritis, Clinician communication training, Patient activation, RA Medication summary guide and RA Choice


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18 years and up

Inclusion criteria for patient participants (Aims 1 & 2):

  • Meet administrative data definition of rheumatoid arthritis (see recruitment section)
  • Receive rheumatology outpatient care at participating clinics and seen at least once in prior 12 months
  • Age 18 years or older
  • English speaking
  • Moderate to high RA disease activity within 18 months prior to enrollment

Inclusion criteria for professional participants (Aims 1-3):

-Rheumatology attendings, fellows or advanced practice partners (nurse practitioners or physicians assistants) at the respective clinics

Inclusion criteria for non-clinician participants (Aim 3):

  • Have held a leadership position within their respective institution for minimum of 12 months prior to enrollment
  • Have worked in the rheumatology clinic setting at their respective institution for minimum of 12 months prior

You CAN'T join if...

Exclusion criteria for patient participants (Aims 1 & 2):

Exclusion criteria for professional participants (Aims 1-3):


Exclusion criteria for non-clinician participants (Aim 3):

  • Have held a leadership position within their respective institution for <12 months
  • Have worked in a clinic setting other than rheumatology
  • Have worked in a clinic setting <12 months


  • San Francisco VA Medical Center, San Francisco, CA accepting new patients
    San Francisco California 94121 United States
  • VA Portland Health Care System, Portland, OR accepting new patients
    Portland Oregon 97207-2964 United States
  • Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA accepting new patients
    Philadelphia Pennsylvania 19104 United States


accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
VA Office of Research and Development
Study Type
Expecting 792 study participants
Last Updated