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Patients' views of chiropractic

Are Chiropractic patients satisfied with the care they receive? Happily, it would seem that "overall patient expectations are being well met".

To set the scene

As part of the obligation to develop a revalidation scheme for chiropractors the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) commissioned some original, independent research into patients views and expectations*. The report was published in January 2013. Currently, chiropractors have to complete 30 hours of continuing professional development every year to stay on the register and in the future, chiropractors will also have to prove that they are fit to practice, this is revalidation. Revalidation is not just applicable to chiropractors but to all medical and non-medical health professionals.

So what did the GCC want to find out from patients?

Basically, there were five questions: what are the benefits of chiropractic care; what do patients see as the potential risk; has their perception of risk and benefit changed; what influenced these perceptions and what do patients expect to assure a chiropractor's continuing fitness to practice.

Taking the responses in turn...

The benefits of chiropractic care -
Patients reported not just the main, and expected, benefits of reduced pain and increased movement, but they also felt much broader benefits such as greater well being and a better understanding of their health in general terms and how to maintain the positive change.

What about the risks?

The main concern that patients have is that they are being treated by someone who is not appropriately trained. Perhaps the best way of getting round this is for chiropractors to explain more that we are a highly regulated profession with our own Act of Parliament and a statutory regulator - just like doctors. The other risk identified by patients was about being subject to poor chiropractic care. The nature of private practice means that generally if patients were dissatisfied they moved to a different practice but it did not necessarily stop them having chiropractic care elsewhere. Interestingly, the patients surveyed felt that potential risks needed to be kept in proportion when weighed against some alternatives like the use of long term medication or surgery. Generally, patients felt well informed about the course of their care and were satisfied with the dialogue between themselves and the chiropractor.

Lastly, what is expected about continuing fitness to practice?

It's fair to say that there is a desire for fitness to practice to be regularly checked. There was less agreement about how such a system should be applied and what should be included, for example not just skills and knowledge but treatment costs, plans and charging arrangements.

My thoughts on the report

Obviously as a chiropractor, I am pleased that the report shows the profession to be delivering high standards of care. The report is 50 pages long so I'm paraphrasing hugely. However, if you are an existing patient I hope it reinforces the experience that you have had and that you would feel confident to refer friends,family and colleagues for chiropractic care if the need arose.

The report in full

* Research into Patients' views and expectations of chiropractic care
Firefly Research and the Department of Health Sciences The University of York