Effect of an extended scope physiotherapy service on patient satisfaction and the outcome of soft tissue injuries in an adult emergency department

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Abstract

Objectives:

To evaluate the effect of introducing an extended scope physiotherapy (ESP) service on patient satisfaction, and to measure the functional outcome of patients with soft tissue injuries attending an adult emergency department (ED), comparing management by ESPs, emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs), and all grades of ED doctor.

Methods:

The ESP service operated on four days out of every seven in a week in an urban adult ED. A satisfaction questionnaire was sent to all patients with a peripheral soft tissue injury and fractures (not related to the ankle) within one week of attending the ED. Patients with a unilateral soft tissue ankle injury were sent the acute Short Form 36 (SF-36) functional outcome questionnaire, with additional visual analogue scales for pain, at 4 and 16 weeks after their ED attendance. Waiting times and time spent with individual practitioners was also measured.

Results:

The ESP service achieved patient satisfaction that was superior to either ENPs or doctors. Overall 55% of patients seen by the ESP service strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the treatment they received, compared with 39% for ENPs and 36% for doctors (p = 0.048). Assessment of long-term outcome from ankle injury was undermined by poor questionnaire return rates. There was a trend towards improved outcomes at four weeks in those patients treated by an ESP, but this did not achieve statistical significance.

Conclusion:

Adding an ESP service to the interdisciplinary team achieves higher levels of patient satisfaction than for either doctors or ENPs. Further outcomes research, conducted in a wider range of emergency departments and integrated with an economic analysis, is recommended.

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