Implementation barriers for general practice guidelines on low back pain a qualitative study

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2001 Aug 1;26(15):E348-53. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200108010-00013.


Study design: Qualitative study design, using semi-structured interviews.

Objective: To explore factors that determine non-adherence to the guidelines for low back pain.

Summary of background data: Guidelines for low back pain have been published in the past decade in various countries. In the Netherlands, general practitioners adhere to them to a fair extent, and it is unclear whether room for improvement remains.

Methods: Forty semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted with twenty patients who consulted for low back pain, and with their general practitioners. The interviews were fully transcribed and analyzed qualitatively.

Results: Patients often had limited expectations of the consultation. They wanted to hear a diagnosis or expected to receive simple advice. The general practitioners said they were well informed about the guideline and mostly agreed with its content. Reasons for non-adherence were mainly related to patients' experiences in the past and general practitioners' interpretations of their preferences. General practitioners stated that they were inclined to give in to patients' demands, for example the request for radiographic films or a referral to a physical therapist. In general, patients and their general practitioners were satisfied with the chosen management.

Conclusions: Improvement of the quality of back pain care may still be possible. Implementation strategies should aim at training physicians in communication skills, especially about subjects for debate, where patients' beliefs and experiences color their expectations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Physicians, Family* / psychology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*