APTA Responds to USA Today on Early Access to PT Care

January 9, 2012

Dear Editor:

"Collaborating Reduces the Cost of Health Care," (USA Today, January 5, 2012) exemplifies how removing payment and regulatory barriers can spur innovation, inspire teamwork among health care providers, and improve the well-being of patients.

Health care reform has provided the nation with an opportunity to put these groundbreaking models into practice through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. It is time to replicate these collaborations in public and private health care programs across the country. As indicated in the article, early access to physical therapists can play a key role in reducing costs, improving patient satisfaction, and getting our nation's workers back on the job as quickly as possible.

Similarly, a recent study published online September 23 in journal Health Services Research found that patients who visited a physical therapist directly for outpatient care had fewer visits and lower overall costs on average than those who were referred by a physician, while maintaining continuity of care within the overall medical system and showing no difference in health care use in the 60 days after the physical therapy episode.

We encourage the federal government, researchers, and insurers to continue to further explore this important issue that could have a profound impact on patient care. Articles such as this will help support efforts to establish policies that reduce unnecessary regulations, improve access, and build models of delivery that best serve the patient and the health care system.


R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association