BACKGROUND: Sub-optimal management of cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients is widespread in primary and secondary care, with risk factors frequently unrecorded or untreated. AIM: To investigate the effectiveness of educational interventions developed in primary care, on recording, prescribing and control of risk factors among all patients recorded by their general practitioner as having CVD. DESIGN OF STUDY: Factorial, duster-randomised controlled trial. SETTING: Primary care teams representing the range of practice development in a geographically defined area in inner London. METHOD: Participating practices were randomly allocated to one of the four intervention groups: information, evidence, both or neither. Interventions were tailored to suit individual practice needs. At a mean of 19 months after baseline, and three months after the end of intervention, practices carried out the follow-up assessment of recording, treatment, and control of risk factors in the same CVD patients. RESULTS: Adequate recording of all three risk factors, found inapproximately a third of patients at baseline, increased non-significantly by 10.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.9 to 24.9) in the information (versus not information) group and by 6.6% (95% [CI] = 8.9 to 22.0) in the evidence (versus not evidence) group. Factorial improvements in prescribing and control of risk factors tended not to be significant. Adequate recording of an three risk factors showed the greatest improvement in the information plus evidence group (19.9% increase, P for heterogeneity across the four groups < or = 0.001). Mean change from baseline to follow-up within the four intervention groups suggested improvements in the combined information plus evidence group in cholesterol recording (22.5% increase), prescribing of lipid lowering drugs (4.4% increase) and mean cholesterol (0.7 mmol/l decrease). CONCLUSIONS: Adequate risk factor recording did not differ between the information (versus not information) or the evidence (versus not evidence) intervention groups. Combined training in information systems and evidence-based medicine should be considered in the design of future interventions, to improve secondary prevention of CVD
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