OBJECTIVE: To assess Australian physiotherapists' knowledge about, attitudes towards, and self-reported use of shared decision making, as well as perceived barriers to its implementation in practice.
METHODS: Physiotherapists registered for a national Australian physiotherapy conference were invited via email and the conference app to complete a self-administered online questionnaire about shared decision making, including: a) knowledge, b) attitude to and reported approach in practice, c) behaviours used, d) barriers, e) previous training and future training interest. Responses were analysed descriptively and open-ended questions synthesised narratively.
RESULTS: 372 physiotherapists (71% female, mean age 45 years, mean experience 23 years) completed the survey. Respondents had a good level of knowledge on most questions, with correct responses ranging from 39.5% to 98.5% of participants, and a generally positive attitude towards shared decision making, believing it useful to most practice areas. Sixty percent indicated they make decisions with their patients and there was general agreement between how decisions should be made and how they are actually made. The behaviour with the lowest reported occurrence was explaining the relevant research evidence about the benefits and harms of the options. The main perceived barriers were patient knowledge and confidence, consequent fewer physiotherapy sessions, and time constraints. Most (79%) were keen to learn more about shared decision making.
CONCLUSIONS: Shared decision making is of growing importance to all health professions and rarely studied in physical therapy. This sample of Australian physiotherapists had a generally positive attitude to shared decision making and learning more about it. Opportunities for providing such skills training at the undergraduate level and in continuing professional development should be explored. This training should ensure that the communicating evidence component of shared decision making is addressed as well as debunking myths about perceived barriers to its implementation.