OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness and cost-utility of a multifaceted eHealth strategy compared to usual care in improving patients' back pain beliefs, and in decreasing disability and absenteeism.
DESIGN: Stepped-wedge cluster randomised trial with parallel economic evaluation.
SETTING: Dutch primary healthcare.
PARTICIPANTS: Patients diagnosed with non-specific low back pain by their general practitioner or physiotherapist. Patients with serious comorbidities or confirmed pregnancy were excluded. 779 patients were randomised into intervention group (n=331, 59% female; 60.4% completed study) or control group (n=448, 57% female; 77.5% completed study).
INTERVENTIONS: The intervention consisted of a multifaceted eHealth strategy that included a (mobile) website, digital monthly newsletters, and social media platforms. The website provided information about back pain, practical advice (eg, on self-management), working and returning to work with back pain, exercise tips, and short video messages from healthcare providers and patients providing information and tips. The control consisted of a digital patient information letter. Patients and outcome assessors were blinded to group allocation.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was back pain beliefs. Secondary outcome measures were disability and absenteeism, and for the preplanned economic evaluation quality of life and societal costs were measured.
RESULTS: There were no between-group differences in back pain beliefs, disability, or absenteeism. Mean intervention costs were €70- and the societal cost difference was €535-in favour of the intervention group, but no significant cost savings were found. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio indicated that the intervention dominated usual care and the probability of cost-effectiveness was 0.85 on a willingness-to-pay of €10.000/quality adjusted life year (QALY).
CONCLUSIONS: A multifaceted eHealth strategy was not effective in improving patients' back pain beliefs or in decreasing disability and absenteeism, but showed promising cost-utility results based on QALYs.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NTR4329.