Open Access Open Badges Research article

Physiotherapy practice in the private sector: organizational characteristics and models

Kadija Perreault12, Clermont E Dionne123*, Michel Rossignol45, Stéphane Poitras6 and Diane Morin27

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS), Institut de réadaptation en déficience physique de Québec, Québec City, Canada

2 Université Laval, Québec City, Canada

3 Axe Santé des populations et Pratiques optimales en santé, CHU de Québec Research Center, Hôpital du St-Sacrement, 1050 Chemin Sainte-Foy, Québec City G1S 4L8, Canada

4 Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux, Montréal, Canada

5 Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montréal, Canada

6 School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

7 Institut universitaire de formation et de recherche en soins, Université de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:362  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-362

Published: 29 August 2014



Even if a large proportion of physiotherapists work in the private sector worldwide, very little is known of the organizations within which they practice. Such knowledge is important to help understand contexts of practice and how they influence the quality of services and patient outcomes. The purpose of this study was to: 1) describe characteristics of organizations where physiotherapists practice in the private sector, and 2) explore the existence of a taxonomy of organizational models.


This was a cross-sectional quantitative survey of 236 randomly-selected physiotherapists. Participants completed a purpose-designed questionnaire online or by telephone, covering organizational vision, resources, structures and practices. Organizational characteristics were analyzed descriptively, while organizational models were identified by multiple correspondence analyses.


Most organizations were for-profit (93.2%), located in urban areas (91.5%), and within buildings containing multiple businesses/organizations (76.7%). The majority included multiple providers (89.8%) from diverse professions, mainly physiotherapy assistants (68.7%), massage therapists (67.3%) and osteopaths (50.2%). Four organizational models were identified: 1) solo practice, 2) middle-scale multiprovider, 3) large-scale multiprovider and 4) mixed.


The results of this study provide a detailed description of the organizations where physiotherapists practice, and highlight the importance of human resources in differentiating organizational models. Further research examining the influences of these organizational characteristics and models on outcomes such as physiotherapists’ professional practices and patient outcomes are needed.

Organizational characteristics; Organizational models; Physiotherapy; Private sector; Survey