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  • Early Rehab in ICU Generates Net Financial Savings for Hospitals

    In a study evaluating the financial impact of providing early physical therapy for intensive care patients, researchers at Johns Hopkins found that the up-front costs are outweighed by the financial savings generated by earlier discharges from the intensive care unit (ICU) and shorter hospital stays overall.

    "The evidence is growing that providing early physical and occupational therapy for intensive care patients—even when they are on life support—leads to better outcomes," says Dale M. Needham, MD, PhD, senior author of the study. "Patients are stronger and more able to care for themselves when they are discharged."

    Hospital administrators' concerns about costs have been cited as barriers to implementing early rehab programs in the ICU. "However, our study shows that a relatively low investment up front can produce a significant overall reduction in the cost of hospital care for these patients," Needham says. "Such programs are an example of how we can save money and improve care at the same time."

    For the study, the researchers developed a financial model based on actual experience at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's medical intensive care unit (MICU) and projections for hospitals of different sizes with variable lengths of stay.

    The Johns Hopkins MICU admits about 900 patients each year. In 2008, the hospital created an early rehabilitation program with dedicated physical therapists and occupational therapists, which added about $358,000 to the cost of care annually. However, by 2009, the length of stay in the MICU had decreased an average of 23%, down from 6.5 days to 5 days, while the time spent by those same patients as they transitioned to less-intensive hospital units fell 18%. Using their financial model, the authors estimated a net cost saving for the hospital of about $818,000 per year, even after factoring in the up-front costs.   

    The researchers then analyzed the potential impact of early rehabilitation services in 24 different scenarios, accounting for variations in the number of ICU admissions, cost savings per day and reductions in length of stay.

    They found that in 20 out of the 24 scenarios, hospitals would have an overall cost savings by providing early rehabilitation to patients in the ICU, and in the 4 remaining scenarios, using the most conservative assumptions, there was a modest net cost increase of up to $88,000 per year.

    APTA member Michael Friedman, PT, MBA, is a coauthor of the study.

    APTA's innovative models of care video series includes an interview with a physical therapist who was instrumental in starting an early physical therapy program for patients in a Houston hospital's ICU.


    • I need more information, maybe if you have you have some links, because we need to justify our work in the area of intensive care. thanks for all

      Posted by martha del rio on 1/16/2013 12:36 PM

    • I work as an Inpatient PT in the ACC-Adult Critial Care at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage,Alaska. MDs, RNs, Discharge Planners, and patients/families have noted the improvement in early mobility in the critical care setting of improved functional mobility and discharge out of the hospital. Patients who are mechanically vented, they are extubated sooner.

      Posted by Sara Okleasik, PT on 1/18/2013 4:18 PM

    • The Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy 2012 Volume 3 Number 2 has an excellent research report entitled "Earlier Mobilization Decreases Length of Stay in the Intensive Care Unit". Their mobility protocol might provide some of the information you are looking for.

      Posted by Lisa Kearns on 1/18/2013 5:28 PM

    • I will review the literature for specifics, but my initial skepticism (at the risk of being heretical) lies in questioning what other factors were changed in the ICU to affect the length of stay, and whether it was early MOBILITY or early PHYSICAL THERAPY that affected the change. (Sorry about the run on sentence.)

      Posted by Rick Blais, PT on 1/21/2013 12:43 PM

    • Our results were quite comparable to those described in this article. It took some time to develop the program in teamwork with nursing, Intensivists, Cardiothoracic surgeons and respiratory therapists as well so that our early mobility program in the ICU was a team effort led by PT and everyone else was on board. We showed 30% reduction in hospital costs associated with ICU stays, reduction in overall length of stays in the hospital, and better functional outcomes for our patients so fewer had to go to other facilities after the hospital stay. It is a great way to improve patient and hospital outcomes!

      Posted by Beverly Hasson, PT on 1/23/2013 3:46 PM

    • That is great news. Then if our profession can reduce overall costs more so than medical doctors, why don't we get reimbursed more for our services??

      Posted by Michael Maggio, PT, DPT on 4/15/2013 1:33 PM

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