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Red flags: Improving knowledge of serious pathologies

Department of Health Sciences

Project Description

In our aging society, conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system will become more prevalent and will increase overall health care costs. These costs can be reduced when multi-disciplinary primary care settings are present where physicians and other health professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nurses work closely together. An aging society will also bring increased serious pathologies affecting the musculoskeletal system (such as

spinal metastatic cancer or osteoporotic fractures) which need to be spotted by these health professionals. The

recognition of serious pathologies affecting the musculoskeletal system, especially in the early stage of a disease, is a challenging task but is essential as this significantly improves prognosis and outcome. Red flags can help health care professionals as these as are signs and symptoms of serious pathologies that can become apparent during the patient’s interview, physical examination or over the course of treatment. Advanced knowledge about these red flags can improve the chances of a patient being referred (back) to the physician and potentially saving a patient’s life.

Our previous work, on the one hand, has shown that final year physiotherapists students’ red flags knowledge in Europe (including Austria) is low. On the other hand, Austrian general practitioners and orthopaedic surgeons realise the importance that physiotherapists recognise red flags. These results highlighted the need for additional training to improve clinical decision making and to recognise more accurately the presence of red flags.

Our overall aim of this proposal is to develop and test educational clinical vignettes for the physiotherapy profession in Austria in order to increase their knowledge about red flags.

In our first part, we aim to investigate the current knowledge level of red flags in Austrian qualified physiotherapists based on validated clinical vignettes using an online survey. In this survey we also ask how physiotherapists would prefer to learn about red flags.

In the second part medical doctors and physiotherapists will work together to develop new interactive clinical vignettes. These clinical vignettes will then be sent to another group of medical doctors and health professionals, using the HAS consensus


In the third and last part the newly developed clinical vignettes will be used in an educational red flags

intervention for physiotherapists to ensure that the project will have a direct effect on the current physiotherapy profession.

  • Further Information
  • Status: Ongoing
  • Project ID : 1293
  • Sponsor :

    Land NÖ

  • Project Leader
  • Prof.(FH) Jessica Janssen, PhD, MSc, BH
    Professor (FH) Institute Therapeutic and Midwifery Sciences