Community-dwelling older people are frequently affected by vertigo, dizziness and balance disorders (VDB). We previously developed a care pathway (CPW) to improve their mobility and participation by offering standardized approaches for general practitioners (GPs) and physical therapists (PTs). We aimed to assess the feasibility of the intervention, its implementation strategy and the study procedures in preparation for the subsequent main trial.
This 12-week prospective cohort feasibility study was accompanied by a process evaluation designed according to the UK Medical Research Council’s Guidance for developing and evaluating complex interventions. Patients with VDB (≥65 years), GPs and PTs in primary care were included. The intervention consisted of a diagnostic screening checklist for GPs and a guide for PTs. The implementation strategy included specific educational trainings and a telephone helpline. Data for mixed-method process evaluation were collected via standardized questionnaires, field notes and qualitative interviews. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, qualitative data using content analysis.
A total of five GP practices (seven single GPs), 10 PT practices and 22 patients were included in the study. The recruitment of GPs and patients was challenging (response rates: GP practices: 28%, PT practices: 39%). Ninety-one percent of the patients and all health professionals completed the study. The health professionals responded well to the educational trainings; the utilization of the telephone helpline was low (one call each from GPs and PTs). Familiarisation with the routine of application of the intervention and positive attitudes were emphasized as facilitators of the implementation of the intervention, whereas a lack of time was mentioned as a barrier. Despite difficulties in the GPs’ adherence to the intervention protocol, the GPs, PTs and patients saw benefit in the intervention. The patients’ treatment adherence to physical therapy was good. There were minor issues in data collection, but no unintended consequences.
Although the process evaluation provided good support for the feasibility of study procedures, the intervention and its implementation strategy, we identified a need for improvement in recruitment of participants, the GP intervention part and the data collection procedures. The findings will inform the main trial to test the interventions effectiveness in a cluster RCT.
Projektdatenbank Versorgungsforschung Deutschland (German registry Health Services Research) VfD_MobilE-PHY_17_003910, date of registration: 30.11.2017; Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien (German Clinical Trials Register) DRKS00022918, date of registration: 03.09.2020 (retrospectively registered).