Education to improve timeliness of shingles diagnosis: Cluster RCT and qualitative study

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Background: Herpes zoster (shingles) is normally diagnosed clinically. Timely diagnosis is important so antiviral treatment can be started soon after rash onset.

Aim: To assess whether a practice-level educational intervention, aimed at non-clinical patient-facing staff, improves the timely assessment of patients with shingles.

Design and Setting: Cluster randomised Study Within A Trial (SWAT) with nested qualitative study in General Practices in England. Methods: Practices were cluster randomised 1:1, stratified by centre and minimised by practice list size and index of multiple deprivation score. Intervention practices were sent educational materials, highlighting the common presenting features of shingles and what action to take if suspected. The primary and secondary outcomes were the mean proportion of patients per practice seen within 72 hours and 144 of rash onset, respectively. Comparison between groups was conducted using linear regression, adjusting for randomisation variables. Semi-structured interviews with practice staff in intervention practices explored views and opinions of the intervention.

Results: 67 practices were enrolled; 34 randomised to intervention, 33 to control. The mean difference in proportion of patients seen within 72 and 144 hours was -0.132 (95% CI -0.308, 0.043) and -0.039 (95% CI -0.158, 0.080), respectively. In intervention practices, 90.5% reported distributing the educational materials, however engagement with these was suboptimal. 12 participants were interviewed, and the poster component of the intervention was said to be easiest to implement.

Conclusion: Our educational intervention did not improve the timely assessment of patients with shingles. This may be the result of poor intervention engagement
Original languageEnglish
Article number0477
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Early online date18 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2024


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