Knowledge transfer in family physicians managing patients with acute low back pain: a prospective randomized control trial

Spine J. May-Jun 2006;6(3):282-8. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2005.10.008.


Background context: The process through which new scientific developments are incorporated into clinical practice is referred to as "knowledge transfer" and is currently the subject of great interest in many areas of clinical medicine. Family physicians managing patients with acute low back pain have been shown to have a poor overall rate of concordance with clinical practice guideline-recommended treatments. New methods need to be developed to help physicians bridge the guideline implementation gap.

Purpose: To determine the efficacy of a knowledge transfer method that communicates clinical practice guidelines to family physicians and their patients using patient-specific, physician-to-physician communications.

Study design: A prospective randomized controlled study.

Patient sample: 428 patients with acute mechanical low back pain and accepted Workers' Compensation Board claims were studied.

Outcome measures: Concordance with specific clinical practice guideline-derived history taking items, physical examination procedures and treatment recommendations was determined.

Methods: Patients with acute mechanical back pain of less than 4 weeks duration and accepted Workers' Compensation Board claims were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In Group 1 (control group) neither the patients nor their family physicians received any information concerning the guidelines. In Group 2, family physicians alone or as well as their patients (Group 3) received a summary of clinical practice guidelines at approximately 2 weeks postinjury. In addition, both Groups 2 and 3 received reminders summarizing the recommended guidelines for patients at three specific stages of their clinical course. All guideline correspondence was addressed to a specific family physician or patient, signed by the study physician-investigators, and specified the patient by name.

Results: Family physicians in the control and intervention groups demonstrated a high degree of concordance with the guideline-recommended history taking and physical examination procedures, but were generally highly discordant with guideline-recommended treatments. Significant improvement in guideline-concordant treatments was seen only with diminished recommendations of prolonged bed rest and passive therapies and an increase in recommended aerobic exercise. Concordance with guideline recommendations relating to the use of spinal manipulative therapy was poor in all study groups.

Conclusions: A knowledge transfer method that involved patient-specific, physician-to-physician communication to family physicians or their patients at three stages of the patient's clinical course was largely unsuccessful in improving concordance with guideline treatment recommendations.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Workers' Compensation