In March 2021, 1,900 Auckland practising physiotherapists were invited by the Board to be part of a survey on the impact on Level 3 COVID-19 restrictions on patients.
The reason the Board decided to undertake this survey was in response to the concerns raised by physiotherapists specifically in relation to the restriction to undertake face-to-face consultations under Level 3. The concerns raised were two-fold: impact on their business; and impact on their patients. The business impact was outside of the Board jurisdiction, however, impact on health and safety of the public is within the purpose of the Board.
It was understood that the Ministry of Health were considering a review of the restrictions under the COVID-19 alert levels for the allied health professions. This was an opportunity to contribute relevant, quantitative and qualitative data to this revision.
In total 358 physiotherapists took part in the survey. While a 19% response rate was less than anticipated, it is within survey expectations. BERL were engaged to undertake the analysis and preparation of the survey results.
The key points of the survey include:
- Almost 60% of respondents worked in primary care with 25% working in the community
- The largest group who responded were those who had been practising for over 21+ years (31%)
- Of the 358 respondents, 308 indicated the Level 3 restrictions had a negative impact on the health outcomes of their patients. 276 of the 308 indicated that there were limitations or barriers to virtual delivery
- The main limitations or barriers to virtual delivery of services faced by patients were their unwillingness to use Telehealth (83 percent), lack of access to the technology required to use Telehealth (79 percent), and clinical presentation limitations (unable to assess or treat using Telehealth) (76 percent)
- The main limitations or barriers to virtual delivery of services faced by physiotherapists were clinical presentation limitations (unable to assess or treat using Telehealth) (81 percent), communication barriers in using Telehealth (37 percent), and not wanting to engage with or use Telehealth (32 percent)
- Of those patients who had negative health outcomes, these were mainly delays in returning to previous functional levels (90 percent), impact on quality of life (84 percent), and deterioration of long-term condition (51 percent)
- main contributing factors to negative impacts on health were rehabilitation stage (78 percent), type of condition (70 percent), and severity of condition (61 percent)
- For those patients presenting with neurological conditions, cardiorespiratory conditions, chronic/long-term conditions, or older adult care requirements, there was a much higher rate of deterioration of long-term conditions
- Telehealth: Three data points stand out:
- those physiotherapists that indicated that Telehealth use was positive, were almost exclusively working in the primary care practice setting
- those physiotherapists that indicated that they were unable to provide a service were almost exclusively working in the community practice setting
- physiotherapists that indicated that Telehealth was hard to use, were almost exclusively working in the primary care practice setting.
The survey results echo feedback the Secretariat received regarding the various lockdowns.
The Physiotherapy Board has reviewed the survey results along with the BERL analysis and has provided the report to key stakeholders including the Ministry of Health.