Researchers to develop new system to improve care for patients with common aches and pains

New research led by Keele University and funded by The Research Council of Norway aims to lead the way in improving primary care for those suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Musculoskeletal disorders are injuries or pain in the musculoskeletal system - including the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons - and impacts on the lives of many people, often with consequences for the patient, health service, and society.

The research project, called Optimizing management of musculoskeletal pain disorders in primary care (SupportPRIM), will develop an innovative computer system using artificial intelligence to support personalised treatment by using data collected from other patients who have received physiotherapy through primary care.

A new system will use an approach called Case-Based Reasoning which will scan the database for patients with a similar condition and symptoms and recommend the treatment with the best outcomes.

The research, led by Dr Jonathan Hill and Professor Daniëlle van der Windt from Keele’s School of Primary, Community and Social Care, will then assess the system in a physiotherapy practice in a randomised controlled trial in Norway, and will be extended and adapted to fit general practice.

This effort will be expanded to general practice in Norway by implementing a stratified care approach - the matching of patients to specific treatments - using the Keele STarT MSK Tool, which is a tailored approach to manage musculoskeletal pain that challenges the existing one-size-fits-all care recommended in current NHS guidelines.

The study will also facilitate and emphasise patients being part of the decision-making process with their physiotherapist.

Co-investigator Dr Hill said: “If this innovative approach using artificial intelligence to develop a personalised decision support system is shown to be better than current best practice treatment then this system could be integrated into future medical record systems, as well as being considered for testing in a range of other patient groups.”