Our patients are more than just numbers……. A patient journey through non-surgical spinal services despite being referred for surgical opinion

Mrs Lynette Fogarty1, Mr  David Thompson1

1Princess Alexandra Hospital – Queensland Health, Woolloongabba, Australia

Within the context of public outpatient surgical services where referral demands are often exceeding resource capability and placing unrelenting pressure on clinical services to provide timely assessment and interventions, we risk being caught up in the numbers and claiming success when we can “reduce surgical waiting lists”. But what about the patients? ………

Models of care that utilise the specialist skills of allied health professionals to provide timely assessment of a patients need for surgical consideration are no longer innovative, but is it ok to simply redirect those patients that don’t proceed to surgery back to their GP and consider this a positive outcome?

The Princess Alexandra Back Assessment Clinic (BAC) and Multidisciplinary Service (MDS) receive patients from GP referral that have been first triaged by the Spinal Surgical Services as appropriate for conservative management. Of these patients, only 14% proceed to surgical waiting lists and the remaining 86% are managed non-surgically. Rather than redirecting back to their GP, these patients have the opportunity to access specialised spinal pain treatment from a MDS.

The aim of this paper is to explore the treatment pathways that various patients take for the management of their chronic spinal pain when referred to the BAC and then determine patient satisfaction of their outcome.

A retrospective analysis of patient data spanning 2 years, as well as evaluation of results from a recent patient satisfaction survey, has been completed, highlighting positive patient outcomes and additionally providing insight into workflow within our service with further potential to inform resource allocation. Gathering and analysing specific patient outcome data after MDS interventions is also underway and will inform the next phase of this research question.


David Thompson is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist with 22 years’ experience, across a variety of domains.  He has worked throughout Australian and the United Kingdom, in both the private and public sectors.  David completed his undergraduate training in 1997 at the University of Queensland and returned to complete his Masters in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy in 2001.    Currently David is employed at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, in a role that involves the management of patients with spinal pain. He sits on the Qld branch of the MPA (Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia).

Lynette Fogarty is an Occupational Therapist with 16 years’ experience, graduating from the University of Queensland in 2002 with Honours. Primarily working within the public sector across clinical and workforce development roles, she has also worked in private and not for profit organisations. Lynette is currently employed at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, as the Senior Occupational Therapist within a multidisciplinary team that provides outpatient services to patients with chronic spinal pain.

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