Practice characteristics of chiropractic delegates attending the World Federation of Chiropractic's 12th Biennial Congress, 2013
Bezuidenhout, Lauren Leigh
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Background Chiropractic is practiced in over 100 countries and is considered to be the fastest growing health care profession internationally. Several studies investigating the practice characteristics of chiropractors have been conducted in selected countries, however, as far as is known, no study has been conducted where chiropractors from countries across the globe are assessed for their practice characteristics in order to determine if regional differences exist. Gaining insight into chiropractic practice and its influencing factors, relating to both the profession itself and the chiropractor can enable organisations such as the World Federation of Chiropractic to have a greater understanding of how chiropractors are currently practicing and how the profession is being utilised by the public. Improved insight into the profession provides a baseline description for the public and other health care practitioners to fully comprehend what chiropractors can offer to the health care system. Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the demographic profile and practice characteristics of chiropractic delegates attending the World Federation of Chiropractic’s 12th Biennial Congress 2013. Method A pre-validated questionnaire and letter of information and consent was distributed to all registered chiropractic delegates (N = 406) attending the World Federation of Chiropractic Congress in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal 2013. The questionnaire was part of the delegate packages and they self-selected to participate. Due to a low response rate at the congress, the questionnaire was made available electronically on Survey Monkey®, for six weeks after the congress. Questions relevant to this study were coded, reduced where necessary and utilised for data analysis with IBM SPSS Version 21. Descriptive data was then summarised and presented using tables and graphs. The study was approved by the Durban University of Technology’s Institutional Research Ethics committee. Results: The response rate was 34.72%, with 52.5% being female, mean age was 42 (SD ± 13years, and all seven geographical regions were represented. The majority of respondents were from Africa (51.1%), followed by North America (22.7%) then Europe (14.2%). South Africa (48.6%) was the most represented country. Respondents held either a Master’s degree in Chiropractic (51.8%) or a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree (48.2%). The mean years since graduating as a chiropractor was 15.7 years (SD ± 3.6). The majority of respondents (71.2%) engaged in full-time clinical practice, for between 5 to 15 years (39.8%) with 51.4% purporting to have an evidence based philosophical approach to practice. The majority (72.5%) viewed the role of a chiropractor in the health care system as a primary health care practitioner with a focused scope of practice. The majority of respondents (n = 52) personally treated 50 patients or less per week, with approximately one third of the respondents (n = 34) having high volume practices (>100 patients weekly). The respondents favoured being one of two chiropractors (36.9%) in a practice setting followed by sole practices (31.6%). The top chiropractic technique utilised was the diversified technique (74.5%) followed by extremity adjusting (68.8%). Various adjunctive, active and passive, axillary techniques were utilised in the daily management of patients. The patient demographics were majority female (55.7%), older than 30 years of age (66.7%) and Caucasian (77%), complaining of head, neck, mid-back and low back pain, which was mostly acute in nature. Trends suggested that females were more likely to select an evidence-based philosophical orientation than males. Females were more likely to delegate adjunctive therapies to non-chiropractic assistants (p = 0.029), and favoured sending patients to a physical therapist (p = 0.018), whereas males were more likely to refer to nutritionists and paediatricians (p = 0.030 and p = 0.038, respectively). Females were less likely to utilise mobilisation techniques (p = 0.008), massage therapy (p = 0.018) and nutritional counselling (p = 0.032). In terms of age, those selecting an evidence-based approach were significantly older than those who adopted a mixer approach to practicing (p = 0.002). The mean age of the respondents, irrespective of the region, was not significantly associated with the number of patients treated per week (p = 0.377) or the hours worked per week (p = 0.474). Trends show that the number of years spent in practice differed among the regions with North American chiropractors spending more years in practice than those from Europe and Australasia. The respondents from South Africa spent fewer years in practice (15 years or less) than respondents from Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America. Geographic region was not significantly associated with practice setting (p = 0.182). The only chief complaint that differed between regions was patients presenting with headaches accompanied by neck pain (p = 0.007), where Asian and North American respondents reported seeing less patients than their colleagues from other regions. Trends suggested that the respondents who attained a Masters of Technology in Chiropractic were more inclined to select a mixer orientation whereas those with a DC qualification selected an evidence-based philosophical approach. Conclusion: The WFC congress provided a platform to successfully determine the demographic profile and practice characteristics of chiropractors from various regions. Similar demographics were evident, with males no longer showing dominance within the profession. Chiropractors adopting an evidence-based and mixer philosophical orientation are synonymous in the role that they play in the health care system and display similarities in chiropractic practice and patient management. Investigating chiropractors who adopt a straight philosophical approach would be beneficial as it will allow for better comparison of demographics and practice characteristics. It is evident that selected demographics do influence how one would opt to practice, with regional differences showing that the chiropractic profession in South Africa is still relatively young.