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Case study: PEDro’s global impact

"It’s one of most complete databases for research about physiotherapy treatments available.”

 

What was the problem?

“We saw a need for clinicians around the world to have rapid access to research that could guide their decisions about treatment,” said Dr Anne Moseley, Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute and one of the founders of the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), a free evidence resource containing more than 34,000 randomised trials, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines in physiotherapy.

“PEDro was initiated when evidence-based practice was in its infancy. Before PEDro, clinicians were making decisions based on knowledge they had learnt during their university training instead of on high-quality clinical research. That meant the knowledge was out of date.

“We saw the opportunity to fill the gap by giving people access to the latest research. PEDro also provides a way for clinicians to quickly identify the best research to answer their clinical questions.”

What did The George Institute do?

Launched in 1999, PEDro was created to provide physiotherapists with a dedicated resource that could keep them up to date with the latest developments in research and treatment. It was founded by a small group of clinicians and researchers including Prof Rob Herbert, Dr Moseley, Prof Chris Maher and Prof Catherine Sherrington, and first hosted by the University of Sydney. A/Prof Mark Elkins joined the PEDro team soon after its launch.

What makes PEDro unique is its specific focus on physiotherapy. “Users can access generic research databases like PubMed, but these cover all areas of medicine and all research published in a set of journals. PEDro indexes all trials, reviews and guidelines evaluating the effects of physiotherapy interventions, regardless of language or journal. It’s one of most complete databases for research about physiotherapy treatments available,” said Dr Moseley.

Guiding users through the potential mountain of information is a custom algorithm called the PEDro scale. PEDro’s search results are ranked according to their relevance to the search terms and the method and rigor of the research. This means users always get the best results first. The PEDro scale has been so successful that it has been used as a way to rank quality in areas outside of physiotherapy, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer.

The ultimate goal of PEDro is to help clinicians understand what research means for their patients. “The focus is on the effects of treatment. We only index research methods that are the best at addressing that particular question – reports of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials,” said Dr Moseley.

Where PEDro users came from in 2015-16 (darker = more users)

 

Results and success

PEDro has grown to be a leading resource for physiotherapists worldwide. Its impact includes:

  • More than two million searches from 222 countries in 2015, with the top five countries being Brazil, USA, Australia, Spain, and the UK.
  • The content indexed by PEDro is growing so fast that it is doubling in size every 3.5 years. 
  • It is now available in 12 languages, including Chinese, French, Portuguese, Turkish and Tamil.

Users have praised the PEDro. “I can't believe I just learned about this resource. Now I don't have to wade through a ton of articles that aren't relevant to physiotherapy interventions,” said one.

Praise has even came from the President of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, Emma Stokes: “The World Confederation for Physical Therapy believes that PEDro is an essential resource that not only informs evidence-based physiotherapy practice worldwide, but ultimately helps provide better services for those needing physiotherapy. I urge physiotherapy organisations globally to join me in supporting PEDro.”

Who else is involved?

PEDro was first funded by the Australian Physiotherapy Association and Motor Accidents Authority NSW for its initial launch. Over the years, numerous supporters and volunteers have contributed to PEDro either financially or by translating content, rating trials, or recording videos in different languages.

More than 40 physiotherapy organisations around the world now support PEDro.

What does the future hold?

“Looking forward, we are seeking financial support from industry partners so that PEDro can continue to be provided as a free resource for the global physiotherapy community,” said Dr Moseley. “On the wishlist for features are more languages, improved search function, and online courses.”

"PEDro has captured the imagination of physiotherapists worldwide, so our goal is to continue to grow it for the benefit of everyone.”

PEDro is available at pedro.org.au. If you are interested in partnering with PEDro, please contact them.