December 09, 2010
"A Device to Kill Cancer, Lift Revenue" (December 7) exposes just one aspect of physician self referral. In addition to imaging services, physicians also self refer patients to physical therapy services through the exception noted in your article that allows them to provide "ancillary" services during a patient's visit. Earlier this year, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reported that physicians with a financial interest in physical therapy initiate therapy for patients with musculoskeletal injuries more frequently than other physicians and physician-owned physical therapy clinics provide more visits per patient than non-physician-owned clinics. Due to these findings, MedPAC listed policy options in its June 2010 report that would limit physicians from referring patients for physical therapy services, other therapeutic services, and radiation therapy provided in physicians' offices.
Putting profits before patients is not just costly to the health care system -- it is unethical and places patients at risk for unnecessary services.
R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association