Assessing Implementation Readiness and Success of an e-Resource to Improve Prelicensure Physical Therapy Workforce Capacity to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Sep;47(9):652-663. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.7281.


Study Design Prospective within-subject, cross-sectional, between-group, nested qualitative designs within an implementation science framework. Background Physical therapy is recommended for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) care, yet prelicensure RA curriculum time remains limited. Objectives To determine readiness for, and success of, implementing an e-learning tool, Rheumatoid Arthritis for Physiotherapists e-Learning (RAP-eL), within the prelicensure physical therapy curriculum. Methods All physical therapy students in a 1-year cohort in 2014 had RAP-eL embedded in their curriculum. Rheumatoid Arthritis for Physiotherapists e-Learning is an online platform that delivers RA disease information with translation to clinical practice. Implementation readiness, determined by acceptability of RAP-eL to students, was evaluated using focus groups (n = 23). Implementation success was measured using quantitative data from a previously validated questionnaire, including changes in students' self-reported confidence in knowledge (out of 45) and skills (out of 40) in managing RA after 4 weeks of access to RAP-eL, retention of learning over 14 months, and differences in workforce readiness between students in the cohort who had access to RAP-eL and a historical control cohort. Results Acceptability of RAP-eL was confirmed from qualitative data, demonstrating implementation readiness. Short-term improvements were observed in RA knowledge (mean difference, 16.6; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 15.7, 17.6) and RA skills (mean difference, 14.9; 95% CI: 13.9, 15.9; n = 137). Retention was demonstrated after 14 months (P<.001; n = 62). Students in the 1-year cohort who had RAP-eL embedded in the curriculum scored significantly higher on knowledge (mean difference, 3.6; 95% CI: 1.3, 5.9) and skills (mean difference, 3.3; 95% CI: 0.9, 5.7; n = 62) compared to those without RAP-eL (n = 36). Rheumatoid Arthritis for Physiotherapists e-Learning remains embedded in the curriculum. Conclusion This study demonstrated both readiness and success of the sustainable implementation of RAP-eL within a prelicensure physical therapy curriculum. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47(9):652-663. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7281.

Keywords: chronic disease; curriculum; e-learning; musculoskeletal; qualitative.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Curriculum*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Licensure
  • Male
  • Physical Therapists / education
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / education*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult