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Keywords:

  • low back pain;
  • patient information;
  • doctor–patient communication;
  • quality assessment

Abstract

Background  As patient involvement in health-care increases, the role of information is crucial, especially in conditions where self-management is considered an integral part of care. However, the suitability and applicability of much patient information has not been appraised in terms of how far it meets patients' information needs.

Aims  To ascertain patients' and clinicians' experiences and expectations of information in low back pain in order to suggest a suitable ‘patient-centred’ content for a patient information pack to be used in a primary care setting.

Methods  A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with General Practitioners (GPs) (n = 15) and focus groups comprising patients with low back pain (n = 37).

Results  Barriers to information-giving for low back pain in primary care exist. Patients are dissatisfied with the information they receive from their GPs, especially regarding diagnosis and treatment. Patients tend to access information from a variety of other sources, which is often contradictory, conflicts with research evidence and leads to unreasonable expectations. GPs have varying views regarding the value of patient information and are equivocal about their roles as information providers. Although The Back Book is generally acceptable as a patient information leaflet for low back pain, attention to the tone of the text is required.

Conclusions  Barriers exist to patient information provision, both generally and for low back pain, which need to be addressed in order to close the gap between strategy and implementation. Improving clinician communication skills and involving patients in developing information materials which meet their needs are crucial to this process.