Acceptability and barriers of a GP–physiotherapist partnership in the diagnosis and management of COPD in primary care: a qualitative study

Lisa Pagano, Zoe McKeough, Sally L. Wootton, Andrew S. L. Chan, Sriram Mahadev, Nicholas Zwar, Deborah Pallavicini, Sarah Dennis*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is commonly diagnosed and managed in primary care but there is evidence that this has been suboptimal, with low confidence expressed in providing interventions requiring behaviour change. The aim of this study was to determine the acceptability of a general practitioner (GP)–physiotherapist partnership in the diagnosis and management of COPD in primary care and to explore the experiences of participants during the implementation of the model. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with physiotherapists (n = 3), GPs (n = 2), practice nurses (PNs) (n = 2) and patients (n = 12) who had participated in the InNovaTivE Gp-physiotheRapist pArTnErship for copD (INTEGRATED) trial. We sought to explore participants' views about their experiences and perceived benefits, barriers and facilitators to the implementation of this model of care. Interviews were transcribed, coded and thematically analysed. Synthesis of the data was guided by the Theoretical Domains Framework for clinician interviews and the health belief model for patient interviews. Results: All clinicians felt that this integrated model helped to optimise care for patients with COPD by facilitating evidence-based practice. GPs and PNs valued the physiotherapist's knowledge and skills relating to diagnosis and management, which was reported to complement their own management and improve patient outcomes. Patients reported a sense of empowerment following their appointments and acknowledged improved self-management skills. However, physiotherapists reported many patients were already engaging in positive health behaviours. Responses were mixed on the effectiveness of the model in facilitating teamwork between clinicians with different perspectives concerning management, communication pathways and logistical issues, such as time and room availability, being cited as barriers. Conclusions: An experienced cardiorespiratory physiotherapist embedded into a small number of primary care practices to work in partnership with GPs for COPD diagnosis and management was acceptable and viewed as beneficial for patients. Barriers relating to logistics and resources remain, which must be addressed to optimise implementation. Patient or Public Contribution: Patient input was obtained from qualitative feedback from a prior study conducted by two authors and was used to refine the model of care to determine the added value of a physiotherapist integrated into the primary care team. This feedback was also used to refine the interview guides utilised in this study determine the acceptability of this model of care. We had health service involvement from the rehabilitation service of the local health district who were directly involved in determining study aims and establishing the project around the priorities for their chronic disease integration service. For example, this project aimed to engage with a less severe patient population in primary care who would benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation. The findings from this study will be used to further tailor the model of care to the needs of the public and patients. Trial Registration: ACTRN12619001127190.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13935
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • allied health
  • COPD
  • physiotherapy
  • primary care
  • qualitative research


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