How does the use of standardised data collection inform the educational needs of physiotherapists working in private practice?

Helen Fiddler, Liz Bryant, Shemane Murtagh, George Olivier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Working as a physiotherapist in private practice can be an isolating experience. Practitioners are under pressure to make their businesses pay and often work as sole practitioners, whilst also being accountable for delivering a quality service to patients. Maintaining high standards of practice requires regular continuing professional development (CPD) as well as the possibility of comparing and discussing practice with others. Standardised data collection is a tool which can enable and inform these needs. This qualitative research aims to explore how standardised data collection influences the practice of physiotherapists working in private practice, specifically focussing on whether it can help to inform their educational needs.

Methods: This study was undertaken as part of a larger data collection project involving more than 500 physiotherapists working in private practice. Semi-structured telephone interviews were carried out with 12 physiotherapists working in private practice, all of whom had used standardised data collection. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data was analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results: 10 females and 2 males participated in the interviews (median years qualified 30.5, range 20–46 years). Five were sole practitioners. Analysis revealed two main themes; ‘the practitioner’ and ‘connectedness to others’. For the practitioner, the use of standardised data collection prompted reflection and highlighted areas for CPD. Connectedness to others was supported by the constructs of ‘benchmarking practice’ and ‘communicating with others’.

Conclusion(s): Standardised data collection showed participants ‘where participants were in the pecking order’, provided feed back like a manager (particularly useful for sole practitioners) and gave reassurance about the currency of practice, as well as stimulating discussion with colleagues thus helping to inform their practice. A limitation of this study is that participants were selected for interview depending on their availability within a short time period so it may not be representative of the wider population of private practitioners. Further research into whether standardised data collection informs educational needs with other groups of physiotherapy practitioners, for example those with less experience, is warranted.

Impact: This research supports the use of standardised data collection (practitioner and patient reported data) by physiotherapists working in the private sector to help inform the education needs of physiotherapists, and the potential for better clinical outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e216
Number of pages1
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


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