Patient preferences for technical skills versus interpersonal skills in chiropractors and physiotherapists treating low back pain

Bishop, Felicity L., Smith, Rachel and Lewith, George (2012) Patient preferences for technical skills versus interpersonal skills in chiropractors and physiotherapists treating low back pain. Family Practice, 30, (2), 197-203. (doi:10.1093/fampra/cms066).


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Little is known about which characteristics of chiropractors and physiotherapists matter to patients
and influence their preferences when seeking care.
To examine the impact of 4 factors (patient gender, practitioner gender, practitioner specialty –
chiropractor or physiotherapist, practitioner reputation – technical ability or interpersonal skills) on
patients’ choice of therapist to treat low back pain.
Questionnaire-based vignette study in which participants sampled from the general population rated
the likelihood of consulting 8 fictional therapists. Each fictional therapist represented a different
combination of the 3 practitioner factors (e.g. male chiropractor with reputation for good technical
ability). The study was administered as a postal survey to a simple random sample of residences in
one postal town in England.
Respondents (n=657) consistently reported that they considered a practitioner’s qualifications and
technical skills important when choosing either a physiotherapist or a chiropractor; just under a third
thought it was important that a practitioner was a good listener. As hypothesised, female
respondents preferred female practitioners and respondents had a general preference for
physiotherapists over chiropractors. Contrary to our hypothesis, the practitioner’s reputation had
the largest effect on respondents’ preferences and all practitioners with a reputation for technical
ability were preferred over those with a reputation for interpersonal skills.
Similar factors are important to patients whether they are choosing an individual chiropractor or
physiotherapist; patients particularly value information about technical competence. An awareness
of these factors should help primary care providers to direct patients to relevant information and
support their decision-making.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1093/fampra/cms066
ISSNs: 0263-2136 (print)
1460-2229 (electronic)
Related URLs:
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions : Faculty of Medicine > Primary Care and Population Sciences
Faculty of Social and Human Sciences > Psychology > Human Wellbeing
ePrint ID: 343347
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
24 September 2012In press
1 November 2012Made publicly available
April 2013Published
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2012 13:55
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 14:34

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