To explore how people perceive different advice for rotator cuff disease in terms of words/feelings evoked by the advice and treatment needs.
We performed a content analysis of qualitative data collected in a randomised experiment.
2028 people with shoulder pain read a vignette describing someone with rotator cuff disease and were randomised to: bursitis label plus guideline-based advice, bursitis label plus treatment recommendation, rotator cuff tear label plus guideline-based advice and rotator cuff tear label plus treatment recommendation. Guideline-based advice included encouragement to stay active and positive prognostic information. Treatment recommendation emphasised that treatment is needed for recovery.
Primary and secondary outcomes:
Participants answered questions about: (1) words/feelings evoked by the advice; (2) treatments they feel are needed. Two researchers developed coding frameworks to analyse responses.
1981 (97% of 2039 randomised) responses for each question were analysed. Guideline-based advice (vs treatment recommendation) more often elicited words/feelings of reassurance, having a minor issue, trust in expertise and feeling dismissed, and treatment needs of rest, activity modification, medication, wait and see, exercise and normal movements. Treatment recommendation (vs guideline-based advice) more often elicited words/feelings of needing treatment/investigation, psychological distress and having a serious issue, and treatment needs of injections, surgery, investigations, and to see a doctor.
Words/feelings evoked by advice for rotator cuff disease and perceived treatment needs may explain why guideline-based advice reduces perceived need for unnecessary care compared to a treatment recommendation.