Development and feasibility of stratified primary care physiotherapy integrated with eHealth in patients with neck and/or shoulder complaints: results of a mixed methods study

Authors Mark L. van Tilburg , Corelien J.J. Kloek , Nadine E. Foster , Raymond W.J.G. Ostelo , Cindy Veenhof , J. Bart Staal , Martijn F. Pisters
Published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Publication date 2023
Research groups Innovation of Movement Care
Type Article


Background Providing individualized care based on the context and preferences of the patient is important. Knowledge on both prognostic risk stratification and blended eHealth care in musculoskeletal conditions is increasing and seems promising. Stratification can be used to match patients to the most optimal content and intensity of treatment as well as mode of treatment delivery (i.e. face-to-face or blended with eHealth). However, research on the integration of stratified and blended eHealth care with corresponding matched treatment options for patients with neck and/or shoulder complaints is lacking. Methods This study was a mixed methods study comprising the development of matched treatment options, followed by an evaluation of the feasibility of the developed Stratified Blended Physiotherapy approach. In the first phase, three focus groups with physiotherapists and physiotherapy experts were conducted. The second phase investigated the feasibility (i.e. satisfaction, usability and experiences) of the Stratified Blended Physiotherapy approach for both physiotherapists and patients in a multicenter single-arm convergent parallel mixed methods feasibility study. Results In the first phase, matched treatment options were developed for six patient subgroups. Recommendations for content and intensity of physiotherapy were matched to the patient’s risk of persistent disabling pain (using the Keele STarT MSK Tool: low/medium/high risk). In addition, selection of mode of treatment delivery was matched to the patient’s suitability for blended care (using the Dutch Blended Physiotherapy Checklist: yes/no). A paperbased workbook and e-Exercise app modules were developed as two different mode of treatment delivery options, to support physiotherapists. Feasibility was evaluated in the second phase. Physiotherapists and patients were mildly satisfied with the new approach. Usability of the physiotherapist dashboard to set up the e-Exercise app was considered ‘OK’ by physiotherapists. Patients considered the e-Exercise app to be of ‘best imaginable’ usability. The paper-based workbook was not used. Conclusion Results of the focus groups led to the development of matched treatment options. Results of the feasibility study showed experiences with integrating stratified and blended eHealth care and have informed amendments to the Stratified Blended Physiotherapy approach for patients with neck and/or shoulder complaints ready to use within a future cluster randomized trial.

Language English
Published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Key words physiotherapy, neck pain, shoulder pain, stratified care, telehealth, eHealth, blended care, mixed methods, feasibility
Digital Object Identifier 10.1186/s12891-023-06272-6

Innovation of Movement Care