A Healthesystems publication

Summer 2016

MYTH BUSTERS: PHYSICAL THERAPY EDITION

Physical therapy (PT) can be a cost driver early in claims. But when PT services are managed effectively, they can speed recovery and reduce overall medical costs.

Myth:

Initiating PT early leads to increased utilization and costs

Fact:

Although PT can increase upfront treatment costs, over the longer term it can reduce prescription and total medical costs1

2-YEAR COSTS ARE LOWER WHEN PT ADHERES TO EVIDENCE-BASED GUIDELINES

Fact:

Early initiation of PT in the right patients can decrease PT utilization and avoid expensive, unnecessary procedures including1:

Myth:

PT greatly increases costs without a commensurate clinical benefit

Fact:

Prescribing PT up front to patients who will derive the most clinical benefit decreased disability scores and reduced mean time off from work by 50%2

Myth:

The need for PT is determined by MRI results

Fact:

In patients with low back pain, initial referral for MRI instead of PT increased costs, as well as odds of surgery, injections, and specialist or emergency department visits3

EFFECTIVE APPLICATION AND MANAGEMENT OF PHYSICAL THERAPY RELIES ON:

 

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SOURCES

1 -Childs JD, Fritz JM, Wu SS, et al. Implications of early and guideline adherent physical therapy for low back pain on utilization and costs. BMC Health Serv Res. 2015;15:150
2 -Foster NE, Mullis R, Hill JC, et al. Effect of stratified care for low back pain in family practice (IMPaCT Back): a prospective population-based sequential comparison. Ann Fam Med. 2014;12:102-11.
3 -Fritz JM, Brennan GP, Hunter SJ. Physical therapy or advanced imaging as first management strategy following a new consultation for low back pain in primary care: association with future health care utilization and charges. Health Serv Res. 2015 Mar 16. doi: 10.1111/1475- 6773.12301. [Epub ahead of print]
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