An exploration of service quality in the healthcare sector: a study of an independent private physiotherapy practice
  This study was concerned with an investigation into the service quality of an independent private physiotherapy practice using a mixed method approach. The Directors of the private physiotherapy practice (the practice) required an understanding of their customer services; however, this did not include the services of the treatment. It was anticipated that the findings of the study would enhance the service quality of the practice in order that it may remain competitive.
A review of the literature revealed a gap for the independent private practice and, in particular, a gap in service quality.
The two main debates in the literature pertained to the instrument of measurement for service quality and the appropriate conceptual model. The literature review suggested that the SERVQUAL Instrument was the most suitable method to meet one of the objectives of this study. It also revealed that there were two main models of service quality (American and Nordic) and that the American model was the conceptual model most related to services and therefore suited to the objectives of this study.
The study comprised of two phases, phase one was the more dominant phase and was accomplished utilising the SERVQUAL Instrument with a sample of 62 practice customers. The analysis in phase one informed the basis for the semi-structured interviews for the second phase. Phase two specifically investigated areas of the service quality where customers had rated their perceptions lower than their expectations. Nine interviews were conducted for phase two.
The key findings for phase one identified, that overall, the service quality of the practice was positive. This was in contrast to other healthcare studies that were in the UK public healthcare sector. On further analysis it was revealed that there were areas of service quality that the customers had rated with a negative perception, in particular the reliability factor. Further, phase one identified that previous experience of physiotherapy services significantly influenced the customers’ expectations of services. In addition the study was in accord with previous literature that suggested that expectations were also culture and socio economic dependent.
The key findings for phase two identified that an investigation into negative perceived service quality was crucial to understanding the ‘why’ of the customers’ perception of the service quality of the practice. Phase two revealed that not only were customers’ expectations formed through experiences, but also that perceptions were formed through other people’s experiences i.e. relatives. Another key finding in phase two was, that despite the customers being informed on several occasions that the study was in relation to service quality and not the treatment, they could not distinguish between the two constructs.
Finally, the study concluded that the SERVQUAL Instrument was suitable for the independent private practice and should be slightly amended to fit the context and culture of the study. In addition, it was concluded that it was of academic and managerial benefit to measure both the expectations and the perceptions of service quality. The core service (service quality and treatment) is required to be taken into consideration in any future healthcare study. Face to face interviews sequentially following the analysis of the SERVQUAL questionnaire provided deeper and perhaps more meaningful information. The data and information gathered could be translated into staff training to maintain the competiveness of the service quality of the practice.

  • Dates:

    2009 to 2014

  • Qualification:

    Doctorate (DBA)

Project Team