What Makes for a Good Physiotherapy Experience?
Amongst the physiotherapists here at Movement Solutions, there is often chatter and feedback about how we can consistently be improving our client care. A large percentage of this feedback and sharing of information revolves around honing multiple skills/techniques and discussing the latest evidence for said technique or various injuries. I believe this is a very valuable practice as it sharpens all of our skills and minds as health care providers.
Reflecting on the Client’s Experience
To a lesser degree, we are also reflecting on the client’s experience and interaction with the treating physiotherapist and within the clinic. At least this has been how I have historically reflected. I am quick to replay how I could have used a different technique for client X, yet less quick to replay how I could have better learned about their personal goals with respect to treatment. Let’s say client X’s desire was to have a pain-free night - maybe client X cared less if I used the 100%-ideal treatment technique and more about if I helped them get a good night’s rest?
Identifying the Qualities of a “Good” Physiotherapist
I was struck with this thought more recently when (via the Canadian Physiotherapy Association’s website) I stumbled across a paper from the Australian Journal of Physiotherapy (1). In this particular study, the researchers’ objective was to “identify the qualities of a ‘good’ physiotherapist and to ascertain the characteristics of good and bad experiences in private practice physiotherapy” (1). 26 subjects with prior experience as private practice physiotherapy clients were interviewed and their reflections on the following issues were analyzed and categorized:
“(i) the qualities of a ‘good’ physiotherapist as defined by patients, and
(ii) the physiotherapy experience” (1)
According to these subjects, the most noteworthy quality that made a good physiotherapist was their “communication ability” (1). This included the therapist’s ability to make eye contact, actively listen, use good body language, give clear explanations to help the client understand the problem, be receptive to feedback and be considerate (1). The specific “service provided” (1) was also deemed an important quality of a good experience but this fell behind communication in terms of perceived value. Subjects noted that both of these components were integral (along with professional behaviour and punctuality) but seemed to hinge more on the interpersonal side of things. To summarize, if the physiotherapist was a good communicator but a lousy clinician, they would eventually be frustrated with their care; yet if the therapist was a lousy communicator but a good clinician, the client wouldn’t stick around long enough to recover anyway!
Focusing On A Client’s Goals - Ahead Of Our Own
Certainly being client-centred has been a focus of physiotherapists in Ontario at large and, more specifically, a key tenet at Movement Solutions. This study does remind us though, of the importance of this practically in the day-to-day of client care. It reminds us that we need to focus on a client’s goals - ahead of our own for them! - and to do so we need to be attentive listeners. This will be something we at Movement Solutions continue to hone, along with our practical skills as noted above.
I do think at this time it is worth noting that this is the benefit of the care one receives at Movement Solutions: it will always be one-to-one. That means you will always be able to provide your feedback, concerns and questions to your physiotherapist directly. Also, we already employ many of the practices suggested by this study – we use “hands-on treatment” (1) techniques, demonstrate exercises with “specific instructions” (1), use “visual aids” and give “written information” (1) to educate clients, etc. Thus, we intend to learn and grow upon reflecting on this study, yet also feel affirmed in that our practice matches the values these clients identified.
Also, if you have any interest in keeping this dialogue going and want to provide any further feedback in the comments below, feel free! Any continued feedback on what one values from their physiotherapy treatment experience is appreciatedJ
Luke Binnington PT
Gordon S, Hamer P, and Potter M. The physiotherapy experience in private practice: The patients’ perspective. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy. 2003; 49: 195-202.