How research can transform clinical practice


Transform: to change completely the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved (Cambridge Dictionary). Transform: the theme of the APA Conference, October 2019, Adelaide. Transform: research into practice—my two bob’s worth.

In my experience, physiotherapists aspire to achieve optimal treatment outcomes for their clients and rely on evidence-based, best practice to do so. It is my opinion that when these ideal treatment outcomes are not reached, physiotherapists question why and want to know what needs to change to achieve better results.

‘I believe this desire to provide optimum care has driven, and continues to drive, research of physiotherapy practice.’

Comparing current physiotherapy practices to those of the 1970s—the early days of my physiotherapy journey—I can truly appreciate the impact of valid and reliable research on transforming practice. I recall (apologies if my memory is flawed after 40-plus years) that percussion, vibrations, deep breath and a cough was the prescribed treatment for every respiratory condition; that painful, sustained, daily stretching was important to prevent contractures in everyone with a neurological condition; and traction was the treatment of choice for referred leg and arm pain.

I believed at the time that these treatments were ‘best practice’. Physiotherapy was a young profession and there was not a lot of evidence to either support or reject these treatment choices. However, the desire to provide optimal care inspired researchers to find the missing evidence and inform and transform practice.

Some words of caution—while valid and reliable research has proven that many techniques and protocols adopted as best practice in the 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s are not so, we must be vigilant and remain objective to recognise research that is neither valid nor reliable. Equally we must remain objective when valid, reliable and repeatable research challenges any firmly held beliefs we have about techniques and protocols currently in practice.

My final word to researchers—ensure your research is robust, valid, reliable and repeatable. Engage with clinicians to identify what they need to know about current physiotherapy practices. Design your research and research output to be useful and easily adoptable by clinicians to enable them to transform practice and patients’ lives.

My final word to clinicians—embrace robust research findings and make the appropriate changes so you can transform your practice and the lives of your patients.

I am proud to be part of a profession full of people with a thirst for knowledge, a desire to be informed and up to date, and who strive to transform the life of every person under their care. This year, in October, the place to quench that thirst for knowledge, become informed with the most up-to-date research and transform your practice is Adelaide—at the APA Conference TRANSFORM.

Find out more about the conference at


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