Melbourne School of Health Sciences Collected Works - Theses

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    Toward relationship-centred care: patient-physiotherapist interaction in private practice
    Hiller, Amy Joy McGregor ( 2017)
    Interacting with patients is integral to the practice of physiotherapy. Notably, however, empirically derived knowledge about how physiotherapists interact with their patients is limited, particularly in the private practice setting. In addition, heavily promoted approaches for interacting with patients, such as patient-centred care and the biopsychosocial approach, have been adopted from the medical profession, are not derived from research evidence, and therefore may not adequately reflect how physiotherapists interact with patients in physiotherapy practice. Thus, this qualitative research had two aims: first, to detail how patients and physiotherapists interact in private practice; second, to consider how the research findings related to promoted healthcare interaction approaches. Methodologically, the research incorporated features of both ethnography and grounded theory. Observations of 52 consultations, as well as in-depth interviews with 9 patient and 9 physiotherapist participants, were undertaken. Data comprised field notes and audio-recordings of observations and interviews, and were analyzed iteratively using principles of thematic analysis and grounded theory. The data analysis yielded two central and complementary themes. The theme ‘physiotherapist-led communication’ encapsulates how physiotherapists directed the style and content of communication to achieve clinical goals by providing structure, making decisions, and focussing on biomedical aspects. The second theme, ‘adapting to build rapport’, describes how physiotherapists incorporated adaptive communication such as eye contact, body language, touch, casual conversation, and humour into their interactions with patients. These adaptations were often intuitively enacted, were responsive to individual patient characteristics, and functioned to build rapport. The findings neither clearly correlated to features of patient-centred care nor to the biopsychosocial approach. Rather, the findings portrayed a dynamic integration of clinical and responsive communication that fostered the development of a trusting relationship between patient and physiotherapist. These results extend knowledge of interactions in physiotherapy by providing detailed descriptions of interactional elements that incorporated patient and physiotherapist perspectives. Furthermore, the findings explain how rapport was developed between patient and physiotherapist with trust as an underlying construct. Relationship-centred care and relational notions of trust are discussed as alternative explanations for how patients and physiotherapists interact in private practice. These findings and explanations have the potential to benefit educators, physiotherapists and, by extension, patients, by offering a framework for education and the practice of patient-physiotherapist interactions.