Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Profiling bone and joint problems and health service use in an Australian regional population: The Port Lincoln Health Study

Clarabelle Pham A , Tiffany K. Gill B , Elizabeth Hoon A F , Muhammad Aziz Rahman C , Deirdre Whitford A , John Lynch A D and Justin Beilby E

A School of Population Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. Email: clarabelle.pham@adelaide.edu.au, john.lynch@adelaide.edu.au

B School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. Email: tiffany.gill@adelaide.edu.au

C St Vincent’s Centre for Nursing Research, Australian Catholic University, East Melbourne, Vic. 3002, Australia. Email: aziz.rahman@acu.edu.au

D School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK.

E Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. Email: justin.beilby@adelaide.edu.au

F Corresponding author. Email: elizabeth.hoon@adelaide.edu.au

Australian Health Review 37(4) 504-512 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH13064
Submitted: 27 March 2013  Accepted: 9 July 2013   Published: 10 September 2013

Abstract

Objectives To describe the burden of bone and joint problems (BJP) in a defined regional population, and to identify characteristics and service-usage patterns.

Methods In 2010, a health census of adults aged ≥15 years was conducted in Port Lincoln, South Australia. A follow-up computer-assisted telephone interview provided more specific information about those with BJP.

Results Overall, 3350 people (42%) reported current BJP. General practitioners (GP) were the most commonly used provider (85%). People with BJP were also 85% more likely to visit chiropractors, twice as likely to visit physiotherapists and 34% more likely to visit Accident and Emergency or GP out of hours (compared with the rest of the population). Among the phenotypes, those with BJP with co-morbidities were more likely to visit GP, had a significantly higher mean pain score and higher levels of depression or anxiety compared with those with BJP only. Those with BJP only were more likely to visit physiotherapists.

Conclusions GP were significant providers for those with co-morbidities, the group who also reported higher levels of pain and mental distress. GP have a central role in effectively managing this phenotype within the BJP population including linking allied health professionals with general practice to manage BJP more efficiently.

What is known about the topic? As a highly prevalent group of conditions that are likely to impact on health-related quality of life and are a common cause of severe long-term disability, musculoskeletal conditions place a significant burden on individuals and the health system. However, far less is known about access and usage of musculoskeletal-related health services and programs in Australia.

What does this paper add? As a result of analysing the characteristics of the overall BJP population, as well as phenotypes within it, a greater understanding of patterns of health service interactions, care pathways and opportunities for targeted improvements in delivery of care may be identified. The results emphasise that participants with BJP utilised the services of a narrow range of providers, which may have workforce implications for these sectors. The funding models for physiotherapists and chiropractors in Australia involve a mix of private and fees for service, which limits access to those who have private health insurance or can pay directly for these services.

What are the implications for practitioners? These analyses indicate the importance of linking allied health professionals with general practice to manage BJP more efficiently. Alternative and appropriate care pathways need to be more strongly developed and identified for effective management of these conditions rather than relying on a traditional range of practitioners. Alternatively, greater ease of access to allied health practitioners may enable more effective treatment and improved quality of life for those with BJP. There is an urgent need to develop an effective population-based model of integrated care for BJP within regional Australia.


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