Clearly, there is a multitude of ways in which to gain further knowledge to improve clinical practice - from reading journals, attending courses and conferences, or spending time shadowing other healthcare professionals. In this post, I'd like to address the issue of commercially packaged training products and physiotherapy tools. Here, my aim is not to either encourage or discourage you from buying into such products - certainly, these can and do have a place. However, I'd like to encourage you to recognise the limitations of such products and to think before you buy.

In my opinion, effective practitioners often draw on an eclectic range of knowledge and skills. Yet, there are commercially available products on the market (for example in the area of functional movement disorders) which seem to oversimplify the methodology for reaching a diagnosis and treatment plan. On the one hand, predefined and limited parameters can certainly save time and simplify the task in hand....but does it always take into consideration the full picture? And what motivates companies to oversimplify their methods? Is this really done in the interests of the customer (i.e. the physiotherapist who buys into the programme) or is there another reason?

Quite often the answer is "YES, there is another reason". When it comes to companies protecting their own commercial interests and intellectual property rights, they can only protect what they actually own. This explains why some products on the market seem to blatantly ignore extensive research which would otherwise appear to be an essential and integral part of the jigsaw puzzle. So this can certainly be a major limitation with commercially available products and one which physiotherapists need to be aware of. With this limitation in mind, I would encourage you to examine the product carefully before you buy - and perform a "cost-benefit" analysis, since some of these products come with a particularly high price tag.

I will illustrate this with the case of Movement Performance Solutions - a commercial outfit which markets two brands: Kinetic Control and Performance Matrix. In my opinion, their training courses and licenced software packages are overpriced - and whilst some of their material is certainly useful, their products are subject to the same limitations as described above. I have used this particular company as an example - not because they are exclusive in charging high prices for their products, but for another reason. Movement Performance Solutions also operates what would appear to be a a type of francise, with physiotherapists being encouraged to sign up as "trainee tutors". Having previously examined one of their contracts, physiotherapists would be well-advised to do as my colleague did: rip it up! If you really wish to work with this company, negotiate your own terms. Certainly as far as we could see, the terms of this Movement Performance Solutions contract gave little in the way of rights to the physiotherapist - who would be expected to provide free input to the company throughout the training period....yet at the same time it committed the physiotherapist to a punitively financial (and legally binding) contract. In my view, this is just another profit making income stream for Movement Performance Solutions.

In summary then, whilst we all need to keep up to date and develop our skills, I would strongly encourage physiotherapists to use a variety of learning and development resources....and to remember to carefully check the small print (and weigh up the limitations) of any commercial training or physiotherapy tool packages that you may consider using.

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