Patient-centeredness in physiotherapy: What does it entail? A systematic review of qualitative studies

Physiother Theory Pract. 2017 Nov;33(11):825-840. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2017.1357151. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Purpose: The literature review is aimed at examining and summarizing themes related to patient-centeredness identified in qualitative research from the perspectives of patients and physiotherapists. Following the review, a secondary aim was to synthesize the themes to construct a proposed conceptual framework for utilization within physiotherapy.

Methods: A systematic search of qualitative studies was conducted including all articles up to 2015 September. Methodological quality was examined with a checklist. The studies were examined for themes suggestive of the practice of patient centeredness from perspective of the therapists and/or the patients. Data were extracted using a data extraction form and analyzed following "thematic synthesis."

Results: Fourteen articles were included. Methodological quality was high in five studies. Eight major descriptive themes and four subthemes (ST) were identified. The descriptive themes were: individuality (ST "Getting to know the patient" and ST "Individualized treatment"), education, communication (ST "Non-verbal communication"), goal setting, support (ST "Empowerment"), social characteristics of a patient-centered physiotherapist, a confident physiotherapist, and knowledge and skills of a patient-centered physiotherapist.

Conclusions: Patient-centeredness in physiotherapy entails the characteristics of offering an individualized treatment, continuous communication (verbal and non-verbal), education during all aspects of treatment, working with patient-defined goals in a treatment in which the patient is supported and empowered with a physiotherapist having social skills, being confident and showing specific knowledge.

Keywords: Models (theoretical); patient-centered care; physiotherapy; qualitative research; qualitative review; review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / standards*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Social Support