Home grown ideas place physio in patients' hands

New research is testing a new way to meet the rapidly growing demand for physiotherapy in our public hospitals.

A clinical trial at four hospitals, including Hornsby and Royal North Shore, is studying whether some patients can successfully undertake physiotherapy exercises at home and still experience the same benefit provided by attending a hospital clinic.

“Demand for physio is increasing rapidly because we have an aging population and because clinicians and consumers have a growing appreciation of its benefits for some conditions,” said Professor Lisa Harvey from Northern Sydney Local Health District and the Kolling Institute.

“But its popularity has created a patient access and equity issue. There are simply not enough physiotherapists to meet the demand in the NSW health system and in some districts the waiting list for face-to-face treatment is very long.”

In a project funded through Sydney Health Partners, Professor Harvey, in collaboration with NSW Health physiotherapists and academics, is using a web-based application to provide trial participants with individually-customised sets of exercises to do at home.

“After a face-to-face assessment, a physiotherapist uses our web application to select and compile a set of exercises suitable for their condition,” said Professor Harvey. “The patient is then given a unique website link to their individual exercise program.”

“They also get messages of encouragement via text messages, and a physiotherapist telephones the patient after two weeks to give them advice, support and reassurance.”

The project is testing the theory that some patients experience better physio outcomes when not dependent on face-to-face treatment.

“In many cases we believe it’s better for patients if they come to see their problem as something they can address if given appropriate support,” said Professor Harvey.