Effect of extended scope physiotherapists assessments in orthopaedic diagnostic setting: a systematic review

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BACKGROUND: Patients with musculoskeletal diseases can potentially be assessed by an extended scope physiotherapist (ESP) instead of by an orthopaedic surgeon (OS).

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effectiveness of the diagnostic musculoskeletal assessment performed by ESP compared to OS.

DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EMBASE, CINAHL, PEDro and reference lists of included studies and previous reviews were searched in November 2015.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Studies were included if they evaluated adults with a musculoskeletal disease referred to an outpatient orthopaedic clinic where a diagnostic assessment had been conducted by an ESP.

DATA EXTRACTION: Data were extracted using a customised data extraction sheet. Two reviewers using checklists evaluated methodological independently.

RESULTS: We included one randomised controlled trial and 31 observational studies. Diagnostic agreement between ESPs and OSs was 65 to 100% across studies. Health care cost savings for diagnostic assessments performed by ESPs were 27 to 49% compared to OSs. Overall, 77 to 100% of the patients were satisfied with the ESP assessment. Results were comparable on diagnostic agreement, cost and satisfaction in studies with high, moderate and low risk of bias.

LIMITATIONS: Risk of bias in the included studies.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATION OF KEY FINDINGS: Diagnostic assessments performed by ESP may be as beneficial as or even better than assessment performed by OSs in terms diagnostic agreement, costs and satisfaction. However, the methodological quality was generally too low to determine the clear effectiveness of ESP assessment, and more high quality studies are needed. Systematic review registration number: PROSPERO CRD42014014229.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-128
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

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