Patient gender does not influence referral to an orthopaedic surgeon by advanced practice orthopaedic providers: a prospective observational study in Canada

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BMC Health Serv Res. 2021 Sep 11;21(1):952. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-06965-5.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The role of an advanced practice physiotherapist has been introduced in many countries to improve access to care for patients with hip and knee arthritis. Traditional models of care have shown a gender bias, with women less often referred and recommended for surgery than men. This study sought to understand if patient gender affects access to care in the clinical encounter with the advanced practice provider. Our objectives were: (1) To determine if a gender difference exists in the clinical decision to offer a consultation with a surgeon; (2) To determine if a gender difference exists in patients’ decisions to accept a consultation with a surgeon among those patients to whom it is offered; and, (3) To describe patients’ reasons for not accepting a consultation with a surgeon.

METHODS: This was a prospective study of 815 patients presenting to a tertiary care centre for assessment of hip and knee arthritis, with referral onward to an orthopaedic surgeon when indicated. We performed a multiple logistic regression analysis adjusting for severity to address the first objective and a simple logistic regression analysis to answer the second objective. Reasons for not accepting a surgical consultation were obtained by questionnaire.

RESULTS: Eight hundred and fifteen patients (511 women, 304 men) fulfilled study eligibility criteria. There was no difference in the probability of being referred to a surgeon for men and women (difference adjusted for severity = – 0.02, 95% CI: – 0.07, 0.02). Neither was there a difference in the acceptance of a referral for men and women (difference = – 0.05, 95% CI: – 0.09, 0.00). Of the 14 reasons for declining a surgical consultation, 5 showed a difference with more women than men indicating a preference for non-surgical treatment along with fears/concerns about surgery.

CONCLUSIONS: There is no strong evidence to suggest there is a difference in proportion of males and females proceeding to surgical consultation in the model of care that utilizes advanced practice orthopaedic providers in triage. This study adds to the evidence that supports the use of suitably trained alternate providers in roles that reduce wait times to care and add value in contexts where health human resources are limited. The care model is a viable strategy to assist in managing the growing backlog in orthopaedic care, recently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PMID:34511124 | DOI:10.1186/s12913-021-06965-5