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South African Journal of Physiotherapy

Referral Practices of Medical Practitioners in Central South Africa to Physiotherapy Services for Patients Living with Musculoskeletal Conditions.

Roline Y. Barnes
Alida Janse van Rensburg
Jacques E. Raubenheimer

Musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs) are a major cause of disability worldwide. It is essential to address effective MSD management, including appropriate referrals to physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals. Limited information is available regarding the referral practices of medical practitioners for patients with MSD. The doctors’ referral practices to physiotherapists can impact the patient population and the South African health system.

Our findings provided valuable insight regarding the current referral practices of medical practitioners in Bloemfontein when referring patients living with MSD to physiotherapy and the different influences that have an effect on their referral practices. Positive outcomes from previous referrals to physiotherapy, personal communication and knowledge gained during undergraduate medical training regarding physiotherapy services, all played a major role in the referral practices of medical practitioners in Bloemfontein.

Extensive postgraduate experience determined to which physiotherapist the referral would go. Improved management, which includes appropriate referrals of individuals with MSD, is important as it could potentially reduce the debilitating effects of MSD on an individual. Another important contribution of improving appropriate referrals of MSD patients is the decreased cost on the healthcare system in South Africa. There definitely is an opportunity to increase potential referrals of patients by GPs to physiotherapy for individuals living with MSD. Furthermore, the opportunity exists to educate undergraduate medical students, registrars and GPs regarding the range of conditions that could be managed effectively by evidence-based physiotherapy interventions.

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