Objective: Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS) are physical symptoms that last for longer than several weeks and for which no (sufficient) somatic explanation can be found. Interventions for treating MUS in primary care are available, but their implementation in daily practice appears difficult. In the current study we aim to explore key barriers and facilitators to the implementation of MUS-interventions in primary care.
Methods: A three-round modified Delphi study was performed, using the input of 58 experts that are (in)directly involved in the care for patients with MUS (e.g. general practitioners (GPs), GP mental health workers, policy advisors). In the first online questionnaire, we generated ideas about relevant barriers and facilitators on different implementation levels. These ideas were independently coded by two researchers, and reformulated into unique barriers and facilitators. In round two, participants selected the ten most relevant barriers and facilitators from round one, which were ranked on importance in round three.
Results: We identified 42 unique barriers and 57 unique facilitators to the implementation of MUS-interventions. The three highest ranked barriers were all related to time, i.e. too little time for treating complex MUS-patients. The most important facilitator was a positive attitude towards MUS-patients. Results varied somewhat per profession.
Conclusion: Key barriers and facilitators to the implementation of MUS-interventions seem to exist on the level of the patient, intervention, professional, organization, and external context. All of these levels should be taken into account in order to increase implementation success of MUS-interventions in primary care.