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To update and appraise the available evidence with respect to the impact of direct access physiotherapy compared to primary care physician-led usual medical care for patients with musculoskeletal disorders in terms of efficacy, health care utilization and processes, health care costs, patient satisfaction, and compliance. Systematic searches were conducted in five bibliographic databases up to June 2019. Studies presenting quantitative data of any research related to direct access physiotherapy for patients with musculoskeletal disorders were included. Two independent raters reviewed the studies, conducted the methodological quality assessment and a data extraction regarding patient outcomes, adverse events, health care utilization and processes, patient satisfaction, and health care costs. Eighteen studies of weak to moderate quality were included. Five studies found no significant differences in pain reduction between usual primary care physician-led medical care and direct access physiotherapy. Four studies reported better clinical outcomes in patients with direct access in terms of function and quality of life. In terms of health care costs, four studies demonstrated that costs were lower with direct access and one study reported similar costs between both types of care. Emerging evidence of weak to moderate quality suggest that direct access physiotherapy could provide better outcomes in terms of disability, quality of life, and healthcare costs compared to primary physician-led medical care for patients with musculoskeletal disorders but not for pain outcomes. These conclusions could be modified when higher quality trials are published. Direct access physiotherapy for patients with musculoskeletal disorders appears as a promising model to improve efficiency of care and reduce health care costs, but more methodologically sound studies are required to formally conclude. #CRD42018095604 IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION Emerging evidence of weak to moderate quality indicates that direct access physiotherapy could provide better outcomes in terms of disability, quality of life and healthcare costs compared to primary physician led usual medical care for musculoskeletal disorders patients. Direct access physiotherapy may lead to increased access to care and a more efficient use of health care resources. Direct access physiotherapy does not appear to improve pain outcomes compared to primary care physician-led usual medical care.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Disability and rehabilitation
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