Introduction Specific low back problems are a common and costly problem in Western societies. The vast majority (88%) of these costs are caused by indirect costs, including job absenteeism, productivity losses, and disability. To reduce these costs, a multimedia campaign was developed for patients with low back pain. This campaign aimed to improve patient cognitions and knowledge regarding back pain, and stimulated active coping including continuing work.
Methods We recruited patients via general practitioners and physiotherapists, and used a RCT design for evaluation. We compared the multimedia campaign to usual care. The campaign consisted of an interactive website, video films, social media and monthly newsletters. Social media included Facebook, Twitter and a patient forum. During the follow-up period of one year cognitions, knowledge, quality of life, absenteeism, and direct and indirect costs were measured and analysed for all patients.
Results 779 patients with low back pain participated, of which 448 patients in the control group and 331 patients in the intervention group. The average age was 56 years, and most patients were women, with a high level of education and a Dutch nationality. In the control group, 232 participants had a paid job, of which 121 reported a physically demanding job. In the intervention group, 183 participants had a paid job, of which 88 reported a physically demanding job. The campaign had no effect on cognitions. The campaign was cost-effective for quality of life, but not for back pain cognitions. The costs for loss of productivity at work were higher in the control group than intervention group, resulting in a potential saving of € 748 per person.
Discussion This multimedia campaign was not effective in improving cognitions in patients with low back pain, but could lead to a reduction in absenteeism costs. From a societal perspective, the campaign was cost-saving.
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