BACKGROUND: The Functional Task Exercise programme is an evidence-based exercise programme for elderly people living at home. It enhances physical capacity with sustainable effects. FTE is provided by physiotherapists and remedial therapists. Although the intervention was found to be effective in a Randomised Controlled Trial, we may not assume that therapists will automatically supply the programme or that elderly people will automatically join the programme. This study protocol focuses on identifying determinants of implementation, developing implementation strategies and studying the effects of the implementation in daily practice.
METHODS/DESIGN: Phase 1: The systematic identification of determinants of the implementation of FTE among therapists and the elderly. A questionnaire study was conducted in a random sample of 100 therapists, and interviews took place with 23 therapists and 8 elderly people (aged 66 to 80 years). The determinants were broken down into four categories: the characteristics of the environment, the organisation, the therapists, and the training programme.Phase 2: Developing and applying strategies adapted to the determinants identified. Fifteen physiotherapists will be trained to provide FTE and to recruit elderly people living at home. The therapists will then deliver the 12-week programme to two groups of elderly, each consisting of six to twelve people aged 70 years or older.Phase 3: Study of implementation and the impact. To study the actual use of FTE: 1) therapists record information about the selection of participants and how they apply the key features of FTE, 2) the participating elderly will keep an exercise logbook, 3) telephone interviews will take place with the therapists and the elderly and there will be on-site visits. The effects on the elderly people will be studied using: 1) the Patient-Specific Questionnaire, the Timed Up and Go test and a two performance tests. All tests will be performed at the start of the FTE programme, half way through, and at the end of the programme.
DISCUSSION: The number of older people will increase in many countries in the years to come and so the project outcomes will be of interest to policy-makers, insurance companies, health-care professionals and implementation researchers.