OBJECTIVE: The objectives of the present study were to: (1) evaluate the effect of an educational course on competence (knowledge and clinical reasoning) of primary care physical therapists (PTs) in treating patients with knee osteoarthritis (KOA) and comorbidity according to the developed strategy; and (2) identify facilitators and barriers for usage.
METHOD: The present research was an observational study with a pretest-posttest design using mixed methods. PTs were offered a postgraduate course consisting of e-learning and two workshops (blended education) on the application of a strategy for exercise prescription in patients with KOA and comorbidity. Competences were measured by questionnaire on knowledge (administered before and 2 weeks after the course), and a patient vignette to measure clinical reasoning (administered before the course and after a 6 month period of treating patients). Facilitators and barriers for using the strategy were assessed by a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews.
RESULTS: Thirty-four PTs were included. Competence (knowledge and clinical reasoning) improved significantly (p < 0.01). Fourteen out of 34 PTs had actually treated patients with KOA and comorbidity, during a 6-month period. The strategy was found to be feasible in daily practice. The main barriers included the limited number of (self-) referrals of patients, limited number of reimbursed treatment sessions by insurance companies and a suboptimal collaboration with (referring) physicians.
CONCLUSION: A blended course on exercise therapy for patients with KOA and comorbidity seems to improve PTs' competence through increasing knowledge and clinical reasoning skills. Identified barriers should be solved before large-scale implementation of exercise therapy can take place in these complex patients.