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The patient's role in outpatient physical therapy: A comparison of patient and therapist perceptions.

1 May 2002


Background and Purpose - The dynamics of the patient-practitioner relationship is recognized to influence patient adherence to medical recommendations. Over time, this relationship has witnessed a shift from medical paternalism to an ideology placing the patient as co-manager in his/her care. Patients and physical therapists agree patient participation is essential, but do they have the same perceptions regarding what the patient's role entails? The purpose of this study was to uncover and compare patient and physical therapist perceptions regarding the patient's role in outpatient physical therapy. · We hypothesized that therapist and patient perceptions would not be consistent with·one another, and indicate therapists believed the patient's role to encompass a higher level of participation.

Subjects and Methods - 94 current physical therapy patients and 37 practicing physical therapists from local outpatient clinics participated in this study. Each completed a questionnaire to obtain information regarding demographics, patient education, and responses to ten statements aimed at exploring the beliefs regarding· the patient's role in physical therapy. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and unpaired t-tests.

Results - Analysis indicated little significant difference between patient and therapist perceptions, yet a large degree of variance within patient responses.

Discussion and Conclusion - Our hypothesis was not fully supported by the results. The large degree of variance observed suggests patients are not as clear as physical therapists on the degree of participation their role entails. Though mean patient and therapist perceptions of the patient's role in physical therapy are consistent with one another, there is still potential to expand these perceptions to reflect a greater level of involvement of the patient as co-manager of care.


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