The Role of Patient Recovery Expectations in the Outcomes of Physical Therapist Intervention: A Systematic Review

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OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the association between baseline patient recovery expectations and outcomes following physical therapy care. METHODS: PubMed, CINAHL Complete, PEDro, SPORTDiscus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and PsycINFO were searched from inception to February 2021. Concepts represented in the search included physical therapy, patient expectations, patient outcomes, and their relevant synonyms. Two reviewers independently screened studies of article abstracts and full texts. Eligibility criteria included English language studies that evaluated adults seeking physical therapist intervention for any health condition where both patient outcome (recovery) expectations and functional or other outcome measures were reported. Methodologic standards were assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Program criteria. Data were extracted using a custom template for this review with planned descriptive reporting of results. Vote counting was used to measure reported outcomes. RESULTS: Twenty-one studies were included in this review, representing 4879 individuals. Studies were most commonly prospective cohort studies or secondary analyses of controlled trials. Varied expectation, outcome, and statistical measures that generally link patient recovery expectations with self-reported outcomes in musculoskeletal practice were used. CONCLUSION: Patient recovery expectations are commonly associated with patient outcomes in musculoskeletal physical therapy. IMPACT: Evidence supports measuring baseline patient expectations as part of a holistic examination process.