Member organisation representatives discuss the data collection project at a break-out group at WCPT's 2011 General Meeting.
Member organisation representatives discuss the data collection project at a break-out group at WCPT's 2011 General Meeting.

Information needed from every member organisation for global picture of physical therapy

Nearly one third of WCPT’s 106 member organisations have submitted profile information about physical therapy in their country to WCPT, following the launch in February of one of the biggest ever global data capturing projects for the profession.

WCPT is now well underway with this major data collection task, collating comprehensive and comparable information about the physical therapy profession across the world. At the beginning of April, 30 member organisations had provided information about numbers of physical therapists and forms of professional regulation, education and practice. They submitted data via an online data capture tool.

Now WCPT wants the remaining member organisations to submit their data too. WCPT President Marilyn Moffat says it is essential that every member organisation contributes. “The power of information is greater when it is complete and accurate,” she said. "It's very important that every member organisation responds. If they do we will have a valuable resource showing policy development and professional activity worldwide."

The project has been carefully planned to try and ensure that everyone submits exactly the same data that is comparable globally. 

“We’ve been very pleased with the response so far and thank everyone for their efforts,” says Catherine Sykes, WCPT’s Professional Policy Consultant. “The data quality on first glance looks high and should prove very useful for the profession.”

The WCPT General Meeting in 2011 pinpointed the need for better internationally comparable information about the profession. Questions about how many physical therapists there are, their education, how they practise and whether they are regulated are currently difficult to answer. The information WCPT is collecting, known as the WCPT Common Data Set (CDS), will address this.

The South African Society of Physiotherapy's (SASP) Physiotherapy Consultant, Magda Fourie, who made the submission online, says collating the data was easy – it took around an hour. “I had no problems in finding the data and just needed to get some of the information from our universities.”

She also made some interesting discoveries while collating the data, finding out for example that the fallout rate of physical therapy students from courses is much higher than the society had anticipated. 

Generally the data collection exercise has already proved useful to the SASP. “We have used our data to advocate for equipment, posts and even used it as part of performance appraisal standards for our employees,” says Magda Fourie. “I’d encourage all member organisations to take part. We need to see international trends to inform physiotherapy services in our own countries.”

Catherine Sykes agrees. “The CDS will enable WCPT to present a profile of the profession for a range of planning and evaluation purposes. Among other things, we will be able to estimate the number of physical therapists related to population, compare the ratio of physical therapists to other health professionals, establish trends in physical therapy, regulation, education and practice and support planning and budgets for future service delivery.”

“Individual member organisation profiles may be used to monitor the change in the profession in a country over time. Combining data by regions or across all WCPT members will allow us to profile the profession around the world.”

If member organisations are finding it hard to complete the data collection, or have any questions, contact Catherine Sykes at csykes@wcpt.org