Improving physiotherapy services to Indigenous children with physical disability: Are client perspectives missed in the continuous quality improvement approach?

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To compare the outcomes of two cycles of continuous quality improvement (CQI) at a paediatric physiotherapy service with findings from interviews with clients and their carers using the service.


Case study based at one paediatric physiotherapy service


Community-based paediatric allied health service in Northern Australia.


Forty-nine clinical records and four staff at physiotherapy service, five Indigenous children with physical disability aged 8–21 years, and nine carers of Indigenous children aged 0–21 years (current or previous clients).


The CQI process based on the Audit and Best Practice for Chronic Disease involved a clinical audit; a workshop where clinicians assessed their health care systems, identified weaknesses and strengths, and developed goals and strategies for improvement; and reassessment through a second audit and workshop. Twelve open-ended, in-depth interviews were conducted with previous or current clients selected through purposive and theoretical sampling. CQI and interview results were then compared.

Main outcome measure:

Comparison of findings from the two studies


Both CQI and interview results highlighted service delivery flexibility and therapists' knowledge, support and advocacy as service strengths, and lack of resources and a child-friendly office environment as weaknesses. However, the CQI results reported better communication and client input into the service than the interview results.


The CQI process, while demonstrating improvements in clinical and organisational aspects of the service, did not always reflect or address the primary concerns of Indigenous clients and underlined the importance of including clients in the CQI process.

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