Ensuring the sustainability of the profession, improving quality of care, strengthening the value of being an APTA member, and increasing patient demand for and access to physical therapy were at the center of motions considered by the 2023 APTA House of Delegates. The results of the deliberations, held online July 8 and in person July 23 and 24, underscored the House's commitment to stewardship of the profession for the next generation of PTs, PTAs, and students.
[Note: This article was published before the official minutes of the House were formally adopted. Language quoted here may be different from final content of House positions, which will be posted on Sept. 29. The 2023 Post-House Packet, which includes draft language of motions adopted during the House is available to members via the APTA House of Delegates Hub community.]
The 2023 House of Delegates included the annual presidential address. Roger Herr, PT, MPA, charged APTA in general, and the House in particular, with making advances in areas including a strengthened workforce, engagement in innovation, and a more proactive approach to changes in payment models that better reflect the contributions PTs and PTAs make to the health of society. Herr challenged the association and its leaders with a target for change: 2030, roughly the time aspiring PTs and PTAs now graduating high school would be completing their DPT and PTA programs.
Herr said that though the seven-year timeline is ambitious, the profession is uniquely suited to meeting the challenge.
"We're not afraid to approach problems from a holistic perspective; we aren't strangers to complexity; and we never, ever give up on our future," Herr said. "We have much work to do to reach our 2030 horizon, and when we get there we will have a story to tell. But know this: That new chapter won't be handed to us by history. We will be writing it ourselves as we go."
Within the Profession and Association
Support of equitable pay regardless of gender and gender identity. In separate motions, the House adopted a statement voicing APTA's support of pay equity on the basis of sex assigned at birth, gender, and gender identity (RC 17-23); and charged the association with developing a plan to promote that equity (RC 18-23).
Pay transparency. Delegates to the House backed the adoption of a statement supporting pay transparency by employers of PTs and PTAs (RC 21-23).
Recognition of subspecialties. The House voted to expand APTA's definition of specialization to include subspecialization, defined as "a distinct subset of knowledge and skills within one or more physical therapy specialties" (RC 3-23). A related APTA policy on specialization was also amended to include subspecialties (RC 4-23).
An exploration of alternative models for PTA education and practice. In part a response to a 2022 report of the physical therapist assistant education summit, APTA will conduct an exploration of alternate education and practice models in other health care professions as a way to identify best practices toward developing a consistent scope of work for the PTA (RC 9-23).
Advocacy for more streamlined credentialing processes for PTs and PTAs. Aside from the basics of licensing and the efficiencies created by the Physical Therapy Compact, there are additional credentialing hurdles required of PTs and PTAs that can delay employment changes and opportunities. APTA will work with other interested parties to advocate for more streamlined processes that emphasizes portability (RC 22-23).
Affirmation that jurisdictional statutes and regulations take precedence over third-party payer policies. In light of third-party payers' attempts at increased influence over PT practice, the House passed a statement clarifying APTA's opposition to "policies or rules of third-party payers being used or substituted for regulatory purposes" (RC 27-23).
More support for components' social media-based marketing efforts. As APTA components continue to increase the use of social media as a way to reach out to consumers and engage members, APTA will provide resources, support, and instruction on social media marketing strategies to promote consumer recognition of the profession and promote member recruitment and engagement (RC 12-22).
Searchable system for House business. To assist with the location of past House actions, APTA will develop a searchable system for accessing all business noticed to the House from 2018 forward (RC 14-23).
The right of PTAs to serve as component delegates. Per a revision to the APTA Bylaws, the House approved the right of components, subject to their bylaws, to seat one PTA as a component delegate to the House (RC 25-23).
Support for increased attention to rural health issues. The House adopted a resolution that voices APTA's support of initiatives to improve rural health (RC 19-23).
Promotion of the role of PTs in the treatment of long COVID. In a motion aimed at accompanying APTA's extensive resources on COVID-19 and long COVID targeted at clinicians with more outward-facing efforts, APTA will promote physical therapists as providers for the treatment of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 through interprofessional education, advocacy efforts, and public-facing education (RC 2-23).
Increased education around indicators of human trafficking. As an acknowledgement of the physical therapy profession's role in improving health outcomes for populations, communities, and individuals, the House adopted a motion voicing APTA's support for increased education around the signs of potential human trafficking (RC 6-23).
More mention of physical therapist referral in published clinical practice guidelines and recommendations. While referral to a PT is an appropriate recommendation to include in many clinical practice guidelines, it should be recommended more frequently than it is. To facilitate better inclusion in CPGs and other clinical recommendations, delegates adopted a position statement that underscores the association's support for more and better clarity around physical therapist referrals in these guidance documents (RC 13-23).
Resources to help PTs and PTAs take a more prominent role in referring patients for participation in community-based health programs. While the physical therapy profession has long been involved in community-based health, injury prevention, and physical activity programs, the public may not recognize the level of expertise PTs and PTAs possess in helping to identify and recommend options. To help shift that perception APTA will develop clinical and advocacy resources for PTs, PTAs, and educational materials for interested parties related to screening, referral, and authorization to participate in community-based health activities (RC 15-23).
The House also recognized two champions of the profession with honorary membership in APTA. They are:
- Dean Jacks, PhD, an associate professor in the DPT program at Hanover College in Hanover, Pennsylvania, who helped develop the program's curriculum and has since engaged in extensive research projects that support the physical therapy profession (RC 23-23).
- Richard Macko, MD, a researcher at the forefront of physical rehabilitation of individuals poststroke, with a focus on higher-intensity walking training and the development of community-based rehab programs (RC 24-23).
The in-person sessions of the House concluded work that began in July, when the House elected the association’s national leadership and Nominating Committee, for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2024.