You’ve been told you could benefit from physiotherapy, but now what?
How do you choose the right physiotherapist for you, amongst the many available in our communities? The following tips offer some guidance in making your choice.
Where to Start?
It can be confusing to know where to begin when looking for a physiotherapist. A great place to start is with your doctor or other healthcare professional. If they were the ones who made the suggestion, they usually partner with therapists they have confidence in and may have someone in mind for you. Word of mouth referrals from family, friends or coworkers are sometimes even more powerful. As they have a first-hand experience of a service, they will generally speak truthfully about the care received. Other options include searching online, which gives you the opportunity to see what the clinics can offer on their websites and what reviews others have provided. Convenience may be important to you, so choosing a clinic close to home or that offers parking may be a wise decision.
Other criterion that is important includes the physiotherapists’ qualifications and training, the length of treatment time, and the look and feel of the clinic.
Physiotherapists’ have either a Bachelor or Master’s degree in Physiotherapy from a recognized university. This education provides the basic knowledge to perform the duties required. In addition to their university education, physiotherapists have to pass a National Competency Exam - written and practical components – in order to practice in Canada. The final hurdle to practice is registration with the provincial regulatory authority. In Ontario this is the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. You can check the College website to ensure you are seeking care from a physiotherapist in good standing. Most therapists continue learning through continuing education courses. This helps to advance their diagnosis and treatment skills to help improve their abilities and provide more efficient treatment. Having a physiotherapist with more education, credentials, and qualifications can be helpful in your recovery. Some therapists even have specific training in acupuncture, dry needling, pelvic floor therapy to name a few. However, all the education in the world can’t make up for a lack of bedside manner or how comfortable you feel around a therapist. You should always feel at ease with your physiotherapist since you will be working with them for a number of weeks.
A big issue in the physiotherapy industry is the length of time with the treating physiotherapist. Remember, you are seeing a physiotherapist and being charged for that health professional’s time. Industry standards in Essex County for the cost of a treatment can be anywhere from $35-80, while the initial consultation can run from $60-100. Depending on the clinic, an initial assessment can be as short as 20 minutes and as long as 1 hour, so if you have a complex issue you’ll want to make sure it is closer to the hour mark. Treatment sessions are a little bit less standardized. In some locations, you’ll be 20 minutes while others your treatment session may be 45 minutes and sometimes even up to an hour.
The big difference from one clinic to another is who you are spending that time with. An important question to ask a clinic is how long you will be spending with the physiotherapist specifically. It’s also important to ask how many people the physiotherapist see in an hour’s time. The more people your physiotherapist sees in an hour, the less time they spend with you. Most physiotherapy clinics have their therapists see clients for anywhere from 10-15 minutes (4-6 people per hour) or up to 30 minutes (2 people per hour). If you are only seeing your physiotherapist for 10-15 minutes, you shouldn’t expect to be paying top dollar. Vice versa, if your therapist is spending more time with you, you should expect to pay more. Be mindful that if you are only seeing your physiotherapist for 10-15 minutes, you will be seen by other members of the team such as physiotherapists’ assistants or kinesiologists to make up the rest of the treatment. Be mindful at the quality vs the price of the treatment.
Look and Feel of the Clinic
Another important aspect to consider when choosing a physiotherapist is the actual location, or the look and feel of it. There are 2 types of clinics, either open concept or private treatment rooms. An open concept clinic is usually one big room with a number of beds spaced out that are divided only by curtains. A clinic with private treatment rooms has numerous separate enclosed rooms with doors, similar to a medical clinic. Some clinics (like ours) will have a combination of both, so you may want to ask. Generally having a clinic that is clean and bright with newer equipment makes us feel more comfortable. The best way to find out if you are going to be comfortable with a clinic is to go and visit it for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for a tour of the facility prior to scheduling a visit. Other considerations are parking availability, accessible parking, and the cost of parking.
As you can see, there are various elements to consider when choosing a physiotherapist. You will be investing time and money to get yourself feeling better, so you may as well make it an enjoyable experience.