Physical Therapists as Resources for Health and Wellness: A Survey of the Patient's Perspective

Purpose/Hypothesis : Millions of Americans suffer from chronic disease, many due to modifiable risk factors, including lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use. While physical therapists are qualified to address many of these issues, especially under direct access, the public may not be aware of their ability to do so. The purpose of this study was to investigate patients' perceptions of physical therapists as resources for health promotion and wellness concerns.Number of Subjects : A total of 71 patients (44 females, 26 males, 1 anonymous) receiving outpatient physical therapy participated in the study.Materials/Methods : A survey was distributed to current patients of 10 outpatient clinics. The survey included questions about demographics, rehabilitation purpose, and previous physical therapy exposure. On the second page, patients were asked whether they would seek information from a therapist on a list of topics, including reasons for rehabilitation for which physical therapists are either trained to treat, such as improving fitness or reducing falls, or trained to recognize as a necessary referral to another specialist, such as depression or medication side effects. Frequency analyses were conducted to determine the number of participants indicating a willingness to discuss the respective topics with a physical therapist. Chi-square analyses were conducted to explore possible relationships between this willingness to discuss health and wellness topics and demographic characteristics.Results : Over 75% of participants indicated a willingness to discuss topics including improvement of fitness, selection of appropriate footwear, body mechanics, and fall prevention. However, the majority of participants reported they would not discuss topics including incontinence, depression, memory loss, and confusion over medications. Males were more likely to discuss alcohol use (p=.04), while older adults were more likely to inquire about medication side effects (p=.04).Conclusions : While several topics commonly associated with physical therapy were identified as likely topics of inquiry, participants were much less likely to discuss other equally important topics. Results of this study suggest an under utilization of physical therapists' knowledge and expertise.Clinical Relevance : Most states have direct access in some form at this time. However, in order for physical therapists to be able to serve effectively as practitioners of choice, their ability to address a great range of conditions and issues, either personally or by referring to other members of the medical team, must be understood. How patients perceive physical therapy greatly impacts the usefulness of direct access; therefore, the profession needs to take a proactive approach in raising public awareness of the wide knowledge base of physical therapists.

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  • Control #: 1727463
  • Type: Poster
  • Event/Year: CSM2014
  • Authors: Katie Siemer, Andrew Aberle, Melissa L. Peterson
  • Keywords: health promotion|wellness

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