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03-02-2013 | General practice | Article

Phone physio speeds access


BMJ 2013; 346: f43

medwireNews: Referral of patients to a telephone physiotherapy service resulted in just as good clinical outcomes as usual care, while allowing patients faster access to treatment, a trial in four community services across England has found.

Half of patients referred by their GP to the service, called PhysioDirect, were able to be managed entirely by telephone, while the service reduced delays in receiving initial treatment advice, as well as non-attendance at subsequent face-to-face appointments, report Dr Chris Salisbury (University of Bristol) and colleagues in the BMJ.

The study included 1,506 patients randomly allocated to the PhysioDirect service and 743 patients allocated to usual care.

After 6 months, improvements in Short-Form 36 questionnaire (SF36v2) physical component scores were equivalent between the two groups of patients.

However, the PhysioDirect patients had fewer face-to-face appointments than those receiving usual care, at 2 versus 3 on average, and a shorter wait for treatment, at a median of 7 versus 34 days.

They also had lower rates of non-attendance, with a mean failure rate of 0.09, compared with 0.12.

The authors concede that there was actually a slight reduction in patient satisfaction with use of the PhysioDirect service, despite faster access to treatment.

But they argue that the telephone service is likely to be more cost-effective than usual pathways of care, "which will be of interest to commissioners".

medwireNews is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter