"Chiropractic is manual therapy, not talk therapy": a qualitative analysis exploring perceived barriers to remote consultations by chiropractors
Background: Remote consultations (RCs) enable clinicians to continue to support patients when face-to-face appointments are not possible. Restrictions to face-to-face care during the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a pre-existing trend for their adoption. This is true for many health professionals including some chiropractors. Whilst most chiropractors in the UK have used RCs in some form during the pandemic, others have not. This study seeks to understand the views of chiropractors not using RCs and to explore perceived potential barriers. Methods: A national online survey was completed by 534 registered practicing UK chiropractors on the use of RCs. Respondents had the opportunity of providing open-ended responses concerning lack of engagement in RCs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Textual responses obtained from 137 respondents were coded and analysed using thematic analysis. Results: The use of RCs provided an opportunity for chiropractors to deliver ongoing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many chiropractors expressed concern that RCs misaligned with their strong professional identity of providing ‘hands-on’ care. Some chiropractors also perceived that patients expected physical interventions during chiropractic care and thus considered a lack of demand when direct contact is not possible. In the absence of a physical examination, some chiropractors had concerns about potential misdiagnosis, and perceived lack of diagnostic information with which to guide treatment. Clinic closures and change in working environment led to practical difficulties of providing remote care for a few chiropractors. Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated changes in the way healthcare is provided with RCs becoming more commonplace in primary healthcare provision. This paper highlights perceived barriers which may lead to reduced utilisation of RCs by chiropractors, some of which appear fundamental to their perceived identity, whilst others are likely amenable to change with training and experience.