It’s certainly not news to anyone paying attention to their healthcare premiums that rising healthcare costs are a significant strain on the pocketbook. In fact, more and more employers who provide healthcare to their employees are moving to high deductible plans with higher visit co-pays and increased premiums. This is leading to a much more cost and efficiency-savvy healthcare consumer who wants to make sure that the choices they make when utilizing healthcare services are efficient, effective, and of good value.
Wisconsin is one of many states with regulatory laws that allow for direct access to a physical therapist without a physician referral, www.apta.org/DirectAccess. (Limitations on direct access do exist for Medicare and some government insurance programs.) For quite some time, there has been resistance to this provision by some in the medical community who believe that direct access will detract from the physician-patient relationship and lead to increased overall healthcare costs for the patient.
However, a recent study published in the journal, Health Services Research, looked at these very issues, with results that convincingly refuted those arguments. The study analyzed almost 63,000 cases of physical therapy utilization from a major insurance company, comparing therapy utilization from both physician referral and direct access cases. In summary, they found that those who visited a physical therapist directly had fewer overall therapy visits and lower overall cost than those who were referred by a physician. They also found that these patients maintained continuity of care within the medical system after the therapy care. In other words, patients stayed in contact with their primary physicians. There was also lower overall cost of related healthcare use for the problem for which they were seeking therapy in those who utilized direct access. In this case, there was less cost associated with MD services or diagnostic tests.
So, in a practical sense, what does all of this mean? Physical therapy has long been known to be highly effective in treating a variety of acute and chronic musculoskeletal problems, including back pain, shoulder problems, knee pain, and so on. Physical therapy treats not only the acute pain episode, but also addresses the underlying issues contributing to the cause of the pain by assessing flexibility, posture, weakness, and body mechanics in a very personal, one-on-one environment with the patient.
One of the recurring themes we hear from patients who utilize Vita Physical Therapy direct access is how convenient the whole process is. Many patients have expressed a reluctance to take extensive time off work to schedule an appointment with their doctor and wait a week or more to get to that appointment. We also know from experience that the natural reaction to simply “wait and see if it gets better on its own” can lead to someone waiting six months to be evaluated. By that time, the condition may have become chronic and more difficult to treat. A musculoskeletal condition caught in its early stages can often be corrected and addressed with just a few physical therapy visits.
In addition, patients can feel secure in knowing that each Vita physical therapist is highly trained in evaluating and treating musculoskeletal injuries and will effectively communicate the findings of the evaluation and the treatment plan with their primary care doctor. Should the evaluation findings suggest a condition or severe injury that falls outside the practice of physical therapy, such as a bone fracture or tendon tear, your Vita physical therapist will immediately make a referral back to the appropriate physician.
The end result for our patients is convenient, effective, and cost-efficient physical therapy services, saving the patients time and money, while helping them meet their goals of returning to their regular life activities.
For a complimentary consultation click here or call 414-272-8482.