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How Physical Therapists Can Help Solve the Health Care Crisis

Last Updated Oct 2012
By: Lisa Minn

health care crisisIf you are a smart, motivated person who enjoys solving problems and working with people, you should consider becoming a physical therapist (PT). Not only is it a stable and a rewarding profession, physical therapists just might be leaders in reigning in the overblown costs of health care in America. Here’s how we can help solve today's health care crisis:

More and more U.S. citizens need our help. Direct access to physical therapy has been shown to be associated with lower costs. As the population ages there will be millions of people who need our skills to help them with everything from a golf-induced sore knee to learning to walk again after a stroke. Physical therapists are experts in the disorders of the musculoskeletal systems, which typically cost $850 billion dollars a year to treat in the United States.

Sometimes it will make more sense for patients to refer themselves to a PT rather than seeing their doctor, which will delay intervention and possibly make their problems worse. In fact, one study showed that when doctors referred their patients to PT, it cost more than twice as much as when patients physical therapywent directly to a PT for a musculoskeletal complaint and that is not even counting the fee for the visit to the referring physician.

Managing both health care crisis and health problems with physical therapy can help patients avoid or delay drugs and surgery, which are expensive and also have a much higher rate of side effects and complications. A great example is osteoarthritis (OA), the “wear and tear” kind of arthritis. Although many people assume that surgery is inevitable, the right kind of therapy is often the best treatment for osteoarthritis.

One study showed that patients with OA of the knee were less likely to take pain medications and were more satisfied with their outcome if they received just 8 sessions of physical therapy with manual treatment plus exercise. Another study showed that 81% of patients with OA of the hip had a successful outcome when treated with a combination of exercise and manual therapy.

We contribute to prevention. Not only do we treat patients after they have become injured or ill, we also help to educate the public how to prevent injuries and chronic illness through exercise and healthy lifestyles. We educate our patients on the importance of maintaining their strength and function after they are discharged from our care. We can give seminars or teach classes, write blogs or articles in magazines about the importance of physical fitness, proper posture and fall prevention.

physical therapy treatmentThis emphasis on prevention is in line with the government’s National Prevention Strategy, which states that a 1% reduction in weight, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol risk factors would save $83 to $103 annually in medical costs per person and that absenteeism costs are reduced by approximately $2.73 for every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs.

So if you are looking for a career that will allow you to be a leader in providing effective and affordable health care that will solve the health care crisis, physical therapy is the way to go!

Resources:

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00130

http://www.apta.org/StateIssues/DirectAccess/MitchellStudy/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013154004.htm

http://www.thepragmaticyogi.com/2010/10/why-pt.html

www.healthcare.gov/prevention/nphpphc/strategy/report.pdf

About the Author: Lisa B. Minn is a licensed physical therapist and yoga enthusiast. She has been incorporating aspects of Yoga her physical therapy practice since 2001 and became a certified yoga instructor in 2004. You can read more about the therapeutic applications of yoga on her blog, ThePragmaticYogi.com.

Click here for more articles by and information on Lisa Minn

 
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Recent Comments (there are 2 comments)
Thanks Jason. I do agree that you can not force people into healthy choices that will prevent (or even treat) chronic disease but I do believe in making those choices as easy and accessible as possible. And I love that as PTs, we can really help people make those choices.
Posted By: Lisa B. Minn
Hi Lisa,Good article, but I'd like to make one point. I agree wholeheartedly that prevention is key. But most are not willing, ready, or motivated to take that step or make that commitment. Without getting into politics, I don't believe prevention can be successfully forced upon people either. Individuals have to take responsibility for their health. Physical therapists can be a huge help in educating on the need for prevention and how-to. I have done and will continue to do yoga and pilates, as well as traditional running, cycling, and weight training. My body feels the best with yoga and pilates - without a doubt. I'll be checking out your blog and website. Thanks for the article!Jason
Posted By: Jason M


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