"Physical therapy is not a subspecialty of the medical profession and physical therapists are not medical doctors; we are a separate profession that provides a unique service that physicians are unable and untrained to provide."

Letter to the AMA from the APTA, Dec 2009

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

PT Assistants and Effectiveness of Treatment Outcomes

(Special thanks to Shannon Wills for guest hosting this post.)

The power of an effective and complete physical therapy program has to be experienced to be believed.

I should know what I’m talking about because I went from walking with crutches to playing racquetball at full strength in just 8 months, thanks to the intense physical therapy rehabilitation program I underwent.

Therapy helps you regain normal movement in your joints and other parts of your body after an accident or an injury; it helps you re-learn habits that are part of your daily routine, but which your brain has forgotten because of a stroke or other illness. Some programs can be done on your own, while others need the intervention of a qualified therapist or a physical therapist assistant (PTA).

Physical therapy is only as effective as the combination of the program that is designed for you, the therapist you’re working with, and most important of all, your efforts and dedication in adhering to the program without any excuse whatsoever.

So, if you’re allowed to choose between working with a physical therapist and a PTA, you’re definitely going to choose the former if you know a little about the hierarchy in this field. The reason is simple – why choose a nurse when the doctor is available?

PTAs are good at what they do no doubt, but while they can carry out treatments, they cannot reassess the patient on a daily basis, make diagnoses, or change the program of treatment based on the progress or prognosis of the patients. This could inhibit the recovery of some patients who would probably do better if their program was altered a little or if their routine was stepped up or down.

So when we look at the effectiveness of the outcomes of treatments that have been carried out by PTAs, we find that the quality of care decreases because the PTAs in charge are limited by their experience and the educational qualifications.

Predictors of Physical Therapy Clinic Performance in the Treatment of Patients With Low Back Pain Syndromes by Resnik, Liu, Mor and Hart provides evidence towards the same – a group of clinics that participated in the research found that in the treatment of patients with lower back pain syndromes, clinics that use PTAs sparingly provided superior quality of care.

While the outcome of this research does not mean that PTAs are not good at their jobs, it only goes to prove that a therapist has to be involved in the treatment at all stages, especially during the initial period of rehabilitation when it is easy to gauge the effectiveness of the therapy program and how the patient responds to it.

This article is written by Shannon Wills, who writes on the topic of Physical Therapy Assistant Schools .

Make your comments to this blog or e-mail Shannnon directly at shannonwills23@gmail.com .

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Tim Richardson, PT owns a private practice at Medical Arts Rehabilitation, Inc in Palmetto, Florida. The clinic website is at MedicalArtsRehab.com.

Bulletproof Expert Systems: Clinical Decision Support for Physical Therapists in the Outpatient Setting is a manager's workbook with stories, checklists, charts, graphs, tables, and templates describing how you can use paper-based or computerized tools to improve your clinic's Medicare compliance, process adherence and patient outcomes.

Tim has implemented a computerized Clinical Decision Support (CDS) system in his clinic since 2006 that serves as a Reminder, Alerting, Prompting and Predicting CDS using evidence-based tests and measures.

Tim can be reached at
TimRichPT@BulletproofPT.com .

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Consistent with the American Physical Therapy Association Vision Statement for Physical Therapy 2020, the American Physical Therapy Association supports exclusive physical therapist ownership and operation of physical therapy services.