Advice and information for patients with low back pain: an interview study of general practitioners

Ditte Meulengracht Hjelmager, Line Dausel Vinther, Søren Herold Poulsen, Lone Stub Petersen, Martin Bach Jensen, Allan Riis

Keywords: General practice, low back pain, patient education, self-management, health information technology


Patient education is recommended for all patients with low back pain (LBP). However, information about the nature of LBP and support to self-manage are inconsistently delivered in general practice.

Research questions:

The objective was to identify general practitioners’ (GPs) barriers and facilitators regarding the use of health information technology (HIT) in the treatment of patients with LBP.


This is a qualitative study employing a participatory design approach, with an inductive analytical thematic approach utilising semi-structured interviews. Eight interviews were conducted with an average duration of 60 min. The interviewees were Danish GPs from different geographical settings and different organisational structures, varying in age and professional interests. We applied an inductive thematic analysis method to code units of meaning in the text and identify themes.


Through the inclusion of healthcare professionals in the design process, this study found that in order for GPs to recommend a HIT application it is essential to target the application towards their patients. Furthermore, GPs required that the HIT application should support patient self-management. Additionally, the content of the HIT application should support the initiated treatment and it should be easy for GPs to recommend the HIT application. Finally, healthcare professionals expressed a need for being involved in the design process.


GPs would be more willing to recommend a HIT application that: applies content in line with frequently used recommendations and supports the patients’ needs.

Points for discussion:

Online information cannot replace the GP, but can rather be a bonding tool between the patient and the GP

It is important to address both GP and patient barriers to applying new technology and to consider the literacy level

Participatory methods could play a central role in the future development of online information material