Background: Quality indicators (QIs) are measurable elements of practice performance and may relate to context, process, outcome and structure. A valid set of QIs have been developed, reflecting the clinical reasoning used in primary care physiotherapy for patients with whiplash-associated disorders (WAD). Donabedian's model postulates relationships between the constructs of quality of care, acting in a virtuous circle.
Aim: To explore the relative strengths of the relationships between context, process, and outcome indicators in the assessment of primary care physiotherapy in patients with WAD.
Materials and Methods: Data on WAD patients (N=810) were collected over a period of 16 years in primary care physiotherapy practices by means of patients records. This routinely collected dataset (RCD-WAD) was classified in context, process, and outcome variables and analyzed retrospectively. Clinically relevant variables were selected based on expert consensus. Associations were expressed, using zero-order, as Spearman rank correlation coefficients (criterion: rs >0.25 [minimum: fair]; α-value = 0.05).
Results: In round 1, 62 of 85 (72.9%) variables were selected by an expert panel as relevant for clinical reasoning; in round 2, 34 of 62 (54.8%) (context variables 9 of 18 [50.0%]; process variables 18 of 34 [52.9]; outcome variables 8 of 10 [90.0%]) as highly relevant. Associations between the selected context and process variables ranged from 0.27 to 0.53 (p≤0.00), between selected context and outcome variables from 0.26 to 0.55 (p≤0.00), and between selected process and outcome variables from 0.29 to 0.59 (p≤0.00). Moderate associations (rs >0.50; p≤0.00) were found between "pain coping" and "fear avoidance" as process variables, and "pain intensity" and "functioning" as outcome variables.
Conclusion: The identified associations between selected context, process, and outcome variables were fair to moderate. Ongoing work may clarify some of these associations and provide guidance to physiotherapists on how best to improve the quality of clinical reasoning in terms of relationships between context, process, and outcome in the management of patients with WAD.