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  • Canadian Study Finds Differences in How Surgeons and Therapists Perceive Communications

    If you ask Canadian orthopedic surgeons, Canadian orthopedic surgeons are pretty darn good at communicating with Canadian physiotherapists and athletic therapists about postoperative rehabilitation. Turns out that not all physiotherapists and athletic therapists would necessarily agree with that assessment.

    Researchers in Canada conducted a survey of the 3 professions to assess the perceived quality of communications around "how complete participants felt referral information was provided or given for the rehabilitation of postoperative patients and whether this referral information needed further clarification." Authors of the study especially wondered if perceptions were more-or-less equal across the professions, and if collaborative settings would improve these perceptions.

    The answers: no, not really; and yes, kind of. Results of the survey were e-published ahead of print in The Physician and Sportsmedicine (abstract only available for free).

    In terms of quality of communication, the 164 surgeons who completed a survey rated their communications a 4 on a 5-point Likert scale on average, while the 687 therapists' assessments (524 physiotherapists and 163 athletic therapists) of the surgeons' communications hovered around a 3. Similarly, when asked if referral instructions for rehabilitation were unclear, the surgeons gave themselves a 2 (5 being the most unclear). The therapists pegged it closer to 3.

    In a free-text section of the survey, respondents were asked to describe the overall quality of communication from the orthopedic surgeons. In this section, about half of the surgeons responded in ways that assessors deemed "positive," with only 9.3% responding negatively. Therapists, on the other hand, were more critical, with 57.9% responding in a negative way, and 18.1% responding with a positive characterization.

    Those numbers were affected somewhat by practice setting, according to researchers. Only 14.1% of combined surgeon/therapist responses were positive when those respondents worked in "standalone" settings, described by authors as a "single-specialty" clinic. When professionals were "co-located" (occupying the same building) or "collaborative" (spending at least some time seeing a patient together), positive descriptions rose to 40% for the co-located respondents and 48% for the collaborative respondents.

    Surgeons and therapists also parted ways when it came to opinions about which forms of communications were most useful. The orthopedic surgeons were more likely to rank pre-printed therapy referral forms as the most useful form of communication, while the therapists preferred consult notes and operative reports.

    "With the advent of extended scope of practice and direct access therapy within an orthopedic practice, and concomitantly increasing wait lists demonstrating a high demand for many orthopedic surgeries, a collaborative approach is evermore needed when treating orthopedic conditions," authors write. "Based on the results of our study, there appears to be a discrepancy in the perception of communication between healthcare professionals and discordance in what is felt to be the most useful form of communication."

    Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

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