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The GAP-Study – „well informed physician-patient-communication“ in consultations on back pain

Despite its mostly good prognosis, back pain takes a leading role in Germany regarding cost of illness and the cases of incapacity to work. On top of that, it has a high socio-medical as well as health economic impact. Regarding diagnosis and therapy, there are remains a gap between guidelines and the treatment reality. In Germany, physicians as well as patients are missing a comprehensible, accessible source of information that can be the basis of a shared decision-making process. Patients frequently research information on the internet in addition to the consultation with their physician, although often lacking skills for a critical appraisal of that information.

Research question

The GAP study provides patients with acute back pain and their physicians with the online portal “tala-med”, a system that is simple to navigate and easy to understand. The quality of consultations when using the online portal - in comparison to routine consultations - will be examined in a prospective, multicenter, cluster-randomized parallel group design. The study will evaluate the effect on patient awareness, physician-patient-communication, and cases of incapacity to work and the back pain-related use of the health care system.

Relevance for physician and patient

With the selection of evidence-based information about back pain and their user-friendly illustration, GAP wants to contribute to the optimization of physician-patient-communication. Doctors should be able to quickly find information that is as scientifically valid as it is comprehensible and concisely explainable to their patient. Well informed patients are more able to contribute to the shared decision-making process and the therapy. Furthermore, an improvement of the quality of treatment for back pain is expected. In case of positive evaluation results, the portal will be made available for all GP practices and patients. Additionally, the transferability for more indications and for the citizen portal (Aktionsplan Gesundheitskompetenz) will be tested.


Within the GAP study, the Institute of General Medicine of the UK Erlangen cooperates with Cochrane Germany, different institutions of the UK Freiburg, the Institute for Journalism of the TU Dortmund, the Company Health Insurance Fund Bavaria (BKK) as well as the Bavarian Family Doctor Association (BHÄV) in a consortium project funded by the innovation fund (Innovationsfond) of the Joint Federal Committee (Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss). The projects duration is set to be 3 years starting on October 1st, 2017.

Representatives of the Institute of General Practice Erlangen:

Project manager: Dr. Piet van der Keylen, M.Sc. 
Project assistant: Kathrin Schnitzius, B.Sc.