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  • New APTA Strategic Plan: Leading the Profession and Association Into the Next Century

    Take a look at the new APTA strategic plan covering the next 3 years, and almost immediately something becomes abundantly clear: the association has no intention of kicking back and cruising into its centennial in 2021. Dig deeper, and you're likely to find that the goals to be reached between now and the beginning of APTA's next century are as ambitious as anything the association has ever attempted.

    The plan, now available on the APTA website, is the result of an 18-month-long Board of Directors effort that included input from nearly 4,000 stakeholders to identify where APTA needs to go to realize its vision of transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience. The end result: a roadmap built around 4 outward-facing goals, with measurable objectives that don't shy away from some ambitious targets.

    In an APTA Media Center interview conducted during APTA's 2019 Combined Sections Meeting, President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, characterized the plan as a new phase in the association's evolution.

    Dunn said that APTA's previous 5-year strategic plan served as a "pivot" away from work that supported the earlier "Vision 2020" statement and toward the association's current vision, adopted in 2013. During 2017 and 2018, and especially after listening to stakeholders and evaluating the association's opportunities, it became clear to the Board that the pivot was complete.

    "We were ready to make some bold moves toward actually transforming society," Dunn said.

    The 4 main goals in the new plan are centered on increasing member value and engagement, fostering the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession, elevating the quality of care provided by physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and maximizing stakeholder awareness of the value of physical therapy.

    Each goal contains 2—and in 1 case, 3—objectives that lay out specific activities that APTA will pursue. The goal aimed at stakeholder awareness of the value of physical therapy, for example, sets APTA on course to advocate for payment policies that increase patient access to physical therapy, to leverage the #ChoosePT campaign and MoveForwardPT.com as public information platforms, and to "embody the APTA mission and vision through an integrated brand strategy." The sustainability goal directs the association to "champion student and early-career issues including debt burden and career-earning potential," and to "make APTA an inclusive organization that reflects the diversity of the society the profession serves."

    The plan isn't designed to be all-inclusive. Many ongoing activities central to APTA—including federal and state advocacy—will continue to be integral parts of the association's operations. Rather than covering every area in which the association will be working, Dunn said, the new plan "looks at what is absolutely necessary to take us into our next century."

    According to Dunn, one of those elements—the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession—is a goal that reflects a pervasive sentiment among the stakeholders providing input on the strategic plan's development and, in the case of student debt and early-career earning potential, "one of the things that keep's [APTA] leadership up at night."

    Dunn explained that APTA's efforts in this area must include not only providing program faculty with resources and tools to help keep a lid on education costs but also a wider effort to make the profession itself as diverse and inclusive as possible—something Dunn believes is key to the profession's long-term sustainability.

    "We need to make the path [to becoming a PT or PTA] easy, make it affordable, and engage and mentor along the way," she said.

    All of the goals and objectives in the plan are equally ambitious and equally capable of having a strong impact on the profession and society, according to Dunn. Here's what she had to say about other elements of the plan:

    • On translating the latest research into tools and resources for practice: "There's a lag time to translating evidence into practice. The environment doesn't allow for that lag time anymore."
    • On supporting the growth of the APTA Physical Therapy Outcomes Registry: "Payers have our data, and we need to have our data and use it to advocate for the benefits of physical therapy."
    • On advocating for PTs on the primary care team: "Putting a physical therapist on the front end of anything—pain, chronic disease—rather than the back end, [results in] a lot of quality and cost savings."
    • On expanding the #ChoosePT campaign beyond the opioid epidemic: "[#ChoosePT] will evolve into other opportunities for the physical therapy profession to meet societal need."

    What's next? With the goals and objectives in place, APTA leadership is now developing metrics to not only measure progress but to help keep the association on course as it attempts to achieve results that, as Dunn said, "meet the needs of not only our society but our members as we treat our patients."