The impact of documentation on communication during patient-physiotherapist interactions: A qualitative observational study

Veronika Schoeb Mezzanotte Amat, Amy Hiller

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Documentation is an essential component of physiotherapy practice for clinical, legal, and ethical reasons. Research in other healthcare contexts suggests that documentation impacts upon communication in patient–practitioner interactions. Thus, the objective of this qualitative study was to examine how physiotherapists and their patients communicate during episodes of documentation. The research was informed by ethnomethodology and ethnography. In total, 113 patient–physiotherapist interactions were observed in Switzerland and Australia with video-recordings, audio-recordings, and field notes collected as data. Episodes of documentation within these interactions were transcribed, and both verbal and non-verbal communication were analyzed inductively. Analysis identified that communication during documentation was characterized by: pauses in conversation, pre-established order of questioning, minimal eye contact, use of direct communication, and an emphasis on objectivity. The use of documentation was observed to alter the wording of questioning as well as the sequence and flow of conversation between patient and physiotherapist. In addition, the observed communicative features seemed to restrict patient participation, and may hinder the achievement of a patient-centered approach. Recognizing the importance of documentation, we address the challenges that our research highlighted by proposing strategies to assist educators and clinicians to optimize communication with patients when incorporating documentation into practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-871
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018


  • Communication
  • documentation
  • patient-practitioner interaction
  • physiotherapy
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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