A study to identify the physiotherapy referral practices of South African medical practitioners in Bloemfontein for musculoskeletal patients
Janse van Rensburg, Alida Maria
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Background. The burden of Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are a great concern globally. To address this global problem effective MSD management including appropriate referrals to physiotherapist and other health professionals are essential. Limited knowledge regarding the practices of medical practitioners referrals for patients with MSD exist globally. An improved comprehension of medical practitioner referral practices to physiotherapy are essential because of the growing burden of MSD internationally and the impact on both the patient population and the South African health system. Aim. The aim of this study was to identify the physiotherapy referral practices that South African medical practitioners in Bloemfontein follow, for individuals living with MSD. Method. A mixed methods approach was utilised, implementing a semi structured questionnaire, designed with the assistance of an expert panel. The questionnaire was completed by 49 participants who were given a choice between completing the questions themselves, telephonically or in person. Interviews done telephonically and in person were recorded and open-ended questions were transcribed verbatim. The quantitative data was analysed with the assistance of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of the Free State. The qualitative data was analysed by the researcher. Results. Results showed that medical practitioner musculoskeletal referrals to physiotherapy vary and multifaceted factors have an influence on their referral practices. Medical practitioners tend to be unsure about the specific role physiotherapists play in the management of individuals living with MSD. Medical practitioners gained most of their knowledge regarding physiotherapy during their postgraduate experience. A need for improved relationships and communication between medical practitioners and physiotherapists were evident. Conclusions. All participating medical practitioners had an awareness regarding the physiotherapy profession and involvement in the management of individuals living with MSD. Medical practitioners regularly refer individuals suffering from MSD to physiotherapy, but their referral practices should be enhanced in terms of evidence based practice and the use of specialized physiotherapy services provided by physiotherapists. In order to decrease the burden of MSD awareness should be created and change should be advocated between all medical practitioners and physiotherapists and further research is necessary regarding referral practices of medical practitioners to all members of the inter professional medical team.
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