Open Access Research article

The effect of an active implementation of a disease management programme for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on healthcare utilization - a cluster-randomised controlled trial

Margrethe Smidth12*, Morten Bondo Christensen1, Morten Fenger-Grøn1, Frede Olesen1 and Peter Vedsted1

Author Affiliations

1 The Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

2 The Section for General Medical Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:385  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-385

Published: 3 October 2013



The growing population living with chronic conditions calls for efficient healthcare-planning and effective care. Implementing disease-management-programmes is one option for responding to this demand. Knowledge is scarce about the effect of implementation processes and their effect on patients; only few studies have reported the effectiveness of disease-management-programmes targeting patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The objective of this paper was to determine the effect on healthcare-utilization of an active implementation model for a disease-management-programme for patients with one of the major multimorbidity diseases, COPD.


The standard implementation of a new disease-management-programme for COPD was ongoing during the study-period from November 2008 to November 2010 in the Central Denmark Region. We wanted to test a strategy using Breakthrough Series, academic detailing and lists of patients with COPD. It targeted GPs and three hospitals serving approx. 60,000 inhabitants aged 35 or older and included interventions directed at professionals, organisations and patients. The study was a non-blinded block- and cluster-randomised controlled trial with GP-practices as the unit of randomisation. In Ringkoebing-Skjern Municipality, Denmark, 16 GP-practices involving 38 GPs were randomised to either the intervention-group or the control-group. A comparable neighbouring municipality acted as an external-control-group which included nine GP-practices with 25 GPs. An algorithm based on health-registry-data on lung-related contacts to the healthcare-system identified 2,736 patients who were alive at the end of the study-period. The population included in this study counted 1,372 (69.2%) patients who responded to the baseline questionnaire and confirmed their COPD diagnosis; 458 (33.4%) patients were from the intervention-group, 376 (27.4%) from the control-group and 538(39.2%) from the external-control-group. The primary outcome was adherence to the disease-management-programme measured at patient-level by use of specific services from general practice. Secondary outcomes were use of out-of-hours-services, outpatient-clinic, and emergency-department and hospital-admissions.


The intervention practices provided more planned preventive consultations, additional preventive consultations and spirometries than non-intervention practices. A comparison of the development in the intervention practices with the development in the control-practices showed that the intervention resulted in more planned preventive-consultations, fewer conventional consultations and fewer patients admitted without a lung-related-diagnosis.


Use of the active implementation model for the disease-management-programme for COPD changed the healthcare utilization in accordance with the programme.

Trial registration identifier: NCT01228708.

Implementation; Disease management; Healthcare utilization; COPD; Chronic Care Model; RCT