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Evaluation of an educational intervention that aims to improve the keep/refer decision-making abilities of Austrian undergraduate physiotherapy students: A randomised pilot study

Lackenbauer, W and Janssen, J and Roddam, H and Selfe, J (2020) Evaluation of an educational intervention that aims to improve the keep/refer decision-making abilities of Austrian undergraduate physiotherapy students: A randomised pilot study. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 27 (5). ISSN 1741-1645

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Abstract

© 2020 MA Healthcare Ltd. Background/Aims An ongoing discussion about direct access to physiotherapy for patients with musculoskeletal pain disorders in Austria requires the development of a curriculum that educates physiotherapy students to make autonomous decisions to treat the patient without the need for medical referral (keep), to treat the patient with additional medical check-up (keep and refer) or to send the patient for medical evaluation without physiotherapeutic management (refer), and to recognise the presence of serious pathologies. The aim of this study was to examine the feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of an educational intervention that was provided to Austrian physiotherapy students in their final semester of the 3-year undergraduate (bachelor) degree. Methods An educational intervention was given to Austrian physiotherapy students in their final semester of the 3-year undergraduate (bachelor) degree, which consisted of a single, 1-hour face-to-face case-based lecture on the principles of differential diagnosis, screening for possible red flag pathologies and review of the body systems. A control group did not receive the intervention, but both groups completed 11 validated vignettes. Results Half of Austrian universities (n=6/12) and 116 final year Austrian undergraduate physiotherapy students took part in the study. All students from the intervention group were satisfied with the intervention and 77.6% found the intervention beneficial for making keep/refer decisions based on clinical vignettes. Overall, 89.7% did not find the intervention too time consuming. A potential effectiveness of the intervention could not be demonstrated. Conclusions Future similar studies need to investigate if more teaching hours and/or if different educational methods are capable of improving the keep/refer decision-making abilities of Austrian undergraduate physiotherapy students.

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