A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of PhysioDirect telephone assessment and advice services for physiotherapy

In an effort to improve access to care, several physiotherapy services have introduced ‘PhysioDirect’ services based on offering initial assessment and advice from a physiotherapist by telephone, followed by face to face care when necessary. This study involved a pragmatic randomised controlled trial to evaluate PhysioDirect, incorporating economic evaluation and nested qualitative research.

We randomised 2249 patients to PhysioDirect or usual care in four different parts of England and assessed the impact on their health status, quality of life, satisfaction and waiting time for advice and treatment. We found that PhysioDirect is equally clinically effective compared with usual waiting-list based care, provides faster access to treatment, and appears to be safe, although may be associated with slightly lower patient satisfaction than usual care. PhysioDirect is probably cost-effective compared with usual care.

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