Comorbidities and the referral pathway to access joint replacement surgery: an exploratory qualitative study.
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BMC Health Serv Res
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BACKGROUND: Variation in access to joint replacement surgery has been widely reported but less attention has been given to the impact of comorbidities on the patient journey to joint replacement surgery. There is a lack of consensus amongst healthcare professionals and commissioners about how patients with comorbidities should be referred or selected for joint replacement surgery. It is therefore important to understand the views of healthcare professionals on the management, referral and selection of patients with comorbidities for joint replacement surgery. METHODS: An exploratory qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews with 20 healthcare professionals in England across the referral pathway to joint replacement surgery. They were asked to talk about their experiences of referring and selecting patients with comorbidities for joint replacement surgery. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis followed a thematic analysis approach based on the principles of grounded theory. RESULTS: In general, the presence of comorbidities was not seen as a barrier to being referred or selected for joint replacement but was seen as a challenge to manage the patients' journey across the referral pathway. Each professional group, concentrated on different aspects of the patients' condition which appeared to affect how they managed patients with comorbidities. This implied there was a disagreement about roles and responsibilities in the management of patients with comorbidities. None of the professionals believed it was their responsibility to address comorbidities in preparation for surgery. This disagreement was identified as a reason why some patients seem to 'get lost' in the referral system when they were considered to be unprepared for surgery. Patients were then potentially left to manage their own comorbidities before being reconsidered for joint replacement. CONCLUSIONS: At the clinician-level, comorbidities were not perceived as a barrier to accessing joint replacement surgery but at the pathway-level, it may create an implicit barrier such that patients with comorbidities may get 'lost' to the system. Further study is needed to explore the roles and responsibilities of professionals across the current orthopaedic referral pathway which may be less suitable for patients with comorbidities.
AuthorsPodmore, B; Hutchings, A; Durand, M-A; Robson, J; Konan, S; van der Meulen, J; Lynch, R
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