Physical therapists (PTs) who function as musculoskeletal primary care providers (PCP) may provide a better route to recovery than family practice physicians, according to a new study that focused on use of PTs in the military. Decreased use of radiology and medication, and a higher return-to-duty ratio for patients whose PCP was a physical therapist were cited as indicators that PTs are effective "musculoskeletal gatekeepers."
In the study, which appears in the October issue of Military Medicine, data were collected on treatment approaches and outcomes among PTs and family practice physicians serving as the PCP for members of the military with musculoskeletal complaints. The results showed that PTs used radiology in 11% of cases while family practitioners had an 82% usage rate. Similarly, medication use for PTs was 24%--family practitioners used medication at a 90% rate. The return-to-duty rate was 50% higher for patients whose PCP was a physical therapist.
Author Lt Col Troy McGill, PT, MPT, USAF, BSC, writes that these results mirror similar efficiencies realized with direct access in the civilian world. In the face of attention to cost containment, and an ever-dwindling supply of internists and family practitioners, he writes that "PT direct access can help fill this void and give patients the safe and effective care they need in a reasonable time."
APTA provides a wealth of resources in support of direct access and continues to work with policymakers to strengthen the ability of PTs to provide the most efficient and effective care possible. Members of APTA can access the full text of McGill's article through Open Door.
A fairly simple educational program may help family practice residents recognize and assess potential for falls among elderly patients, according to a recent article in Medscape.
Scripps Mercy Chula Vista Family Medicine Residency Associate Program Director Michael Rosenblatt, DO, MPH, worked with a team to develop a short computer-based learning module that they administered to second- and third-year residents. Residents also watched a DVD from the Assessing Care of Vulnerable Elders (ACOVE) project before they conducted patient assessments and created care plans.
The results? Fall assessment scores from second-year residents increased from 42% to 78%, and from 55% to 85% for the third-year residents. Designers of the program hope that better education on falls assessment will result in fewer incidents. One-third of elderly Americans experience a fall each year, with 20%-30 % resulting in serious injury.
Physical therapists can help educate their patients on falls, and help them understand how to stay safe by using information provided on APTA's "Move Forward" site.
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