"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, October 19, 2010

Physical Therapists: The LAST, Best Choice!

Many of my physical therapist friends say that Physical Therapy is your FIRST, best choice for consumers - before drugs, before surgeries, before scary, invasive, expensive diagnostic imaging like MRI and CAT scan.

Physical therapists can treat and prevent painful disability - this is the kind of problem that, unlike heart attacks, strokes and cancer - may NOT kill you but may leave you paralyzed, immobile or wheelchair bound.

You may have difficulty with simple things in life:
  • Getting up out of a chair
  • Playing with your grandkids
  • Climbing stairs

But, I want to show you why physical therapy may also be your LAST, best choice!

From the journal Health Affairs (Sept 2005):
This rather hairy image shows that spending for LEAST disabled persons is rising almost as rapidly as for the MOST disabled.
"Among community-dwelling elderly, spending growth among the least disabled grew more quickly than among the most disabled, which offsets some of the cost savings associated with declining disability rates."
The good news is that disability rates have been falling, relative to population growth, for several years:

People are living longer, in less pain and less disability.  Costs, for this cohort, are not costs - they are an investment.  We are investing in better quality of life for America's seniors...
Outpatient Therapy Task Force 2
Notice that the 85-89 year old people are the highest users of therapy?

They use, on average, $857 in outpatient therapy per year - higher than any other group of Medicare beneficiary.

Can we attribute the declines in disability to the higher utilization of therapy services? Do survivors tend to use therapy services disproportionately?

Currently, therapy services are "defaulted" when physicians can't find a surgical lesion to cut. Or, when medical marketing fails to convince seniors that yet another injection, drug or operation will help them feel better

If therapy services can be shown to reduce disability in America's oldest cohort then American's may want to continue spending in this area by targeting therapy dollars to the group most able to benefit - America's oldest citizens.

Physical therapy may be their last, best choice.

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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.