Perspectives on research evidence and clinical practice: a survey of Australian physiotherapists

Physiother Res Int. 2007 Sep;12(3):147-61. doi: 10.1002/pri.363.


Background and purpose: Physiotherapists' use of research evidence with clinical decision-making has interested researchers world-wide since 1980; however, little is known about such practices in Australia. The present survey sought information on Australian physiotherapists' perceptions of the importance of research, and barriers to uptake of evidence in clinical practice, when compared with an international cohort from 2001.

Method: An Australian-relevant version of an English (UK) National Health Service (NHS) survey instrument was used to canvass 453 physiotherapists, randomly selected from the South Australian Physiotherapy Registration Board 2004-2005 records. The first survey was mailed in August 2005, a reminder was sent two weeks later to non-responders and a follow-up survey was sent in April 2006 to non-responders whose addresses had changed since 2005.

Results: There was a 51% response rate. Of the non-responders, 12% were not contactable at their listed address, highlighting the mobility of Australian physiotherapists. Most respondents had undertaken research as students (59.5%) or as students and clinicians (11.5%). Of these, 37.1% were encouraged to embark on more research, and 20.5% were discouraged. The significant predictors of positive perceived importance of research were: previous research experience; being positive about undertaking further research; working in hospitals and holding a postgraduate degree. Clinicians working privately were significantly less likely than managers to be positive about research importance. The only significant predictor for not perceiving barriers to uptake of evidence was being positive about undertaking future research.

Conclusions: The study identified constraints on uptake of evidence into practice that were related to accessing, reading and interpreting published research, and implementing findings. Found consistently across employment categories were barriers relating to lack of time, uncertainty about what the research reported, scepticism about the value of research and being isolated from peer support and literature sources. The responses indicated a positive shift towards evidence uptake since the 2001 NHS survey, suggesting an influence of increased exposure to information on evidence-based practice. A greater focus on research whilst training, the application of educational strategies for empowerment, better knowledge transfer and upskilling within the workplace, and ensuring dedicated time and organizational support for research activities are indicated.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Clinical Competence
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Physical Therapy Specialty*