BACKGROUND: This study aims to explore (i) physiotherapists' current use in daily practice of patient-reported measurement instruments (screening tools and questionnaires) for patients with acute low back pain (LBP), (ii) the underlying reasons for using these instruments, (iii) their perceived influence on clinical decision-making, and (iv) the association with physiotherapist characteristics (gender, physiotherapy experience, LBP experience, overall e-health affinity).
METHODS: Survey study among Dutch physiotherapists in a primary care setting. A sample of 650 physiotherapists recruited from LBP-related and regional primary care networks received the survey between November 2018 and January 2019, of which 85 (13%) completed it.
RESULTS: Nearly all responding physiotherapists (98%) reported using screening tools or other measurement instruments in cases of acute LBP; the Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale (64%) and the STarT Back Screening Tool (61%) are used most frequently. These instruments are primarily used to evaluate treatment effect (53%) or assess symptoms (51%); only 35% of the respondents mentioned a prognostic purpose. Almost three-quarters (72%) reported that the instrument only minimally impacted their clinical decision-making in cases of acute LBP.
CONCLUSIONS: Our survey indicates that physiotherapists frequently use patient-reported measurement instruments in cases of acute LBP, but mostly for non-prognostic reasons. Moreover, physiotherapists seem to feel that current instruments have limited added value for clinical decision-making. Possibly, a new measurement instrument (e.g., screening tool) needs to be developed that does fit the physiotherapist's needs and preferences. Our findings also suggest that physiotherapist may need to be more critical about which measurement instrument they use and for which purpose.