Barriers and facilitators for implementation of a digital referral algorithm for inflammatory arthritis - a qualitative assessment in patients and caregivers

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Abstract Purpose Difficulty to recognize inflammatory rheumatic diseases (IRD) in a primary care setting leads to late referral to secondary care. An evidence-based digital referral algorithm can support early referral, yet implementation in daily practice only succeeds with support of end users. We aim to understand the context of implementing a digital referral algorithm and explore the potential barriers and facilitators to implementation. Methods This qualitative study comprised focus groups and an online survey. Focus groups were performed with patients from outpatient rheumatology clinics. Surveys were sent out to general practitioners and rheumatologists distributed over The Netherlands. The presented digital referral algorithm originates from the JOINT referral study. Thematic analysis was used with inductive and deductive approaches. Results In total 26 patients participated distributed over three focus groups, and 215 caregivers (104 rheumatologists, 111 general practitioners) filled out the survey. Both patients and caregivers endorse the need for early referral, and recognize the perceived benefit of the digital algorithm. Potential barriers include the complexity of currently included questions, and the outcome lacking information on what to do with no risk of IRD. In order for implementation to be successful, the inclusivity, accessibility, content and outcome of the algorithm are considered important themes. Conclusion Successful implementation of a digital referral algorithm needs a systematic multi-facetted approach, considering the barriers and facilitators for implementation as discussed. Since the majority of identified barriers and facilitators was overlapping between all stakeholders, findings from this study can reliably inform further decision strategies for successful implementation.
Date made available2022

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