Physical Therapists’ Falls Prevention Knowledge, Beliefs, and Practices in Osteoarthritis Care: A National Cross-Sectional Study

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Abstract

Objective: To investigate physical therapists’ knowledge, beliefs, and current practices around falls prevention in osteoarthritis (OA) care. Methods: Currently registered, practicing Australian physical therapists who care for patients with hip and/or knee OA were invited to participate in this cross-sectional study. A comprehensive online survey was used to collect data that were analyzed descriptively or using chi-square tests; free-text responses were classified into key themes for analysis. Results: Complete responses were received from 370 eligible physical therapists, with broad representation across Australian states and practice settings. Participants worked in public and private hospitals, community health centers, private practices, and aged-care facilities. The sample ranged from new graduates to experienced physical therapists (47% had practiced ≥11 years). Despite the majority having specific training or access to educational resources, physical therapists reported only moderate confidence in assessing falls risk (median 7 [interquartile range (IQR) 6–8]; range 0 [not at all confident] to 10 [extremely confident]) and delivering falls prevention care (median 7 [IQR 6–8]). While most participants asked about falls history (88%), only 39% used falls-risk screening tools, and of these, relatively few used appropriate tools. Time constraints (including competing clinical priorities) were the most frequently perceived barrier to including falls prevention activities within OA care. Conclusion: This national snapshot of contemporary OA practice has revealed clear opportunities for optimizing clinician confidence and skills to facilitate the uptake of best-practice falls prevention strategies. Improving practice in this area may yield substantial benefits to patients and the health system if more falls can be prevented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1095
Number of pages9
JournalArthritis Care & Research
Volume72
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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