"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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Taking Routine Blood Pressures in the Physical Therapy Clinic

Physical therapists should be taking routine blood pressures in the physical therapy clinic.

We have evidence that physical therapists don't routinely assess blood pressure from Jette and Jewell's April 2012 study in Physical Therapy Journal.

Only 11% of 2,544 physical therapists in all settings measured and followed-up with blood pressure. Every time your patient comes in you, or a member of your staff, should take and record their blood pressure.

The Centers' for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that over one-half of American's have hypertension defined as
"...average systolic blood pressure (SBP) greater than 140 mmHg or an average diastolic blood pressure (DBP) greater than 90 mmHg, or currently using blood pressure (BP) lowering medication."
Over one-third of Americans with hypertension were unaware of their problem and 90% of them had a usual source of care - that is, they had a doctor.

According to the CDC report: Vital Signs: Awareness and Treatment of Uncontrolled Hypertension Among Adults — United States, 2003–2010
"Nearly 90% of U.S. adults with uncontrolled hypertension have a usual source of health care and insurance, representing a missed opportunity for hypertension control. 
Improved hypertension control will require an expanded effort and an increased focus on blood pressure from health-care systems, clinicians, and individuals."
This is a major opportunity for physical therapists to assume an increased role in the care of Americans.

Physical therapists can position themselves as primary care providers by providing increased blood pressure monitoring and referral. Primary care providers, physicians and otherwise, will be an important workforce component for hospital systems participating as Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) within the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

Finally, to prevent a Medicare Audit a physical therapist can document routine blood pressure measure before, during and after exercise can show Skilled Physical Therapy.

"Skilled Physical Therapy" means that your service normally wouldn't be provided by a lesser trained provider, such as a massage therapist or athletic trainer.

Physical therapists work on medically complex patients where safety is a key concern. We know that 7% to 12% of individuals experience an adverse response to exercise. Adverse response is defined as:
"...an exercise-induced change that worsens a risk factor (such as BP) beyond measurement error and expected day-to-day variation."
Physicians probably cannot detect these individuals reliably. Physical therapists could measure blood pressure changes during and after and on multiple sessions of exercise. Adverse changes could provide the physical therapist with cues that could indicate a change in the Plan of Care or referral.

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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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