Background: Profiles of health professions practice can inform pre-professional education, provide evidence to assist with interprofessional practice, and inform policy development. An understanding of the profile of patients seeking osteopathy care is emerging. Current research suggests that musculoskeletal presentations predominate with approximately one-third of patients presenting with co-morbid diseases. There is little data on these presentations in Australian osteopathy practice. This study aimed to describe the patient demographics, clinical presentations, health behaviours and determinants of health, including health literacy, of those attending for care at an Australian student-led osteopathy clinic.
Methods: A convenience sample design was utilised where consecutive patients presenting for their initial consultation were invited to complete a health information questionnaire during 2016–2017. The questionnaire explored a range of health behaviours and the patient’s health status. Data from the clinical records were also extracted to establish the presenting complaint, duration of the complaint and pertinent demographics. Descriptive statistics were generated for each variable.
Results: Data were available for 1617 patients presenting for their initial consultation. The mean age of patients was 33.7 (±13.1) years with 55% (n = 887) identifying as female. Acute presentations predominated (n = 840, 52%), with presentations affecting the spine being the most common (57.8%). Most patients rated their health status as good to very good (75%). Approximately 7.5% of patients were identified as having low health literacy and 55.9% were currently suffering from one or more co-morbid presentations.
Conclusions: The demographic profile and presenting complaints of patients presenting to a student-led osteopathy clinic are largely consistent with other Australian private practice profiles. The current work also identified co-morbid presentations, and positive and negative health behaviours. Osteopaths may play a role in the management of, or referral for, these presentations where health behaviours require change, or management of co-morbid conditions is beyond the scope of practice. The increasing volume of patient profile literature globally suggests that osteopaths can play a substantial role in the management of musculoskeletal complaints. Further, osteopathy may play a role in screening determinants of health, and engage in multidisciplinary care to ensure those patients with co-morbid conditions or adverse health behaviours are managed appropriately.
Author keywords: Musculoskeletal — Osteopathic medicine — Health literacy — Public health — Chronic disease — Life satisfaction — General health — Spine
Author affiliations: BV: Department of Medical Education, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; KF: Independent researcher, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; MF, JM: College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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