Implementing high value back pain care in private physiotherapy in Australia: a qualitative evaluation of physiotherapists who participated in an "implementation to innovation" system

Claire Gardner, G. Lorimer Moseley, Emma L. Karran, Louise K. Wiles, Peter Hibbert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives: Many barriers exist to delivering high-value care for people with low back pain (LBP). We have developed a multistrategy implementation system to overcome these barriers. Here we describe a qualitative evaluation of the experiences of private-sector physiotherapists implementing the system.

Design: PRISM (Practice-based innovation and implementation system) is an iterative clinician-as-scientist implementation program, tailored here for acute and subacute LBP. PRISM integrates strategies from behavioral change, implementation, and educational science fields. Semistructured interviews, group discussion forums, and electronic questionnaires were used to collect data at multiple time points that were then analyzed using an interpretative descriptive approach.

Participants: Six physiotherapists (purposive sample) practicing in private practice physiotherapy clinics in the Adelaide region, South Australia, were enrolled in the study.

Interventions: Interventions included an educational pain science and care workshop incorporating self-regulated learning principles, a co-planned clinical pathway, an electronic decision support tool, development and support of a community of practice, case study simulations, audit and feedback, and collaborative problem solving and innovation for physiotherapists.

Results: Participants' experiences and perceptions centered around five themes: (1) knowledge and skills training; (2) networking and mentoring; (3) a clear clinical pathway; (4) practical tools; and (5) data feedback. Participants appraised the implementation process positively but identified patient receptiveness as a challenge at times. Suggestions for improvement included streamlining/automating data collection forms and processes and providing more simulation opportunities.

Conclusions: PRISM appears to be a promising approach to overcoming several barriers that prevent people with back pain from receiving high-value care. It consolidates and increases pain science knowledge and increases physiotherapist confidence in delivering high-value care. It appears to legitimize some current practices, enhance clinical reasoning and communication skills, extend knowledge in line with contemporary pain science, and facilitate the application of a biopsychosocial management approach. The high-level acceptance by participants provides a foundation for further research to test outcomes and delivery in different settings. 

Contribution of the article

A quality improvement intervention designed to improve delivery of high-value care was well received by private practice physiotherapists.

Physiotherapists particularly valued using experiential learning to improve fluency in communicating with, and educating patients about, contemporary pain science.

A structured clinical pathway and tools guided physiotherapists on the basic elements of necessary care and allowed them to concentrate on higher levels of decision making and communication with patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-102
Number of pages17
JournalCanadian Journal of Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020]. 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.


  • low back pain
  • physiotherapist perspectives
  • qualitative research
  • quality improvement
  • feasibility study


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