Physical therapy changes lives for the better, and those changes create ripple effects that contribute to a healthier, more productive society. A historic new report from APTA shines a bright light on that relationship, tying those concepts to dollar estimates that, for the first time ever, quantify physical therapy's potential to deliver true economic value to patients, the U.S. health care system, and society as a whole. The resource, which focuses on eight conditions in which PTs and PTAs can play a major role, shows how physical therapy could save the health care system millions of dollars annually.
"The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States" represents the profession's first attempt to incorporate reviews of clinical research, health economics modeling, and subject matter expertise to capture how the long-lasting quality-of-life improvements gained from physical therapy can lead to economic benefits. By going beyond a simple comparison of treatment costs, the report shows how physical therapist services were repeatedly found to be more cost-effective than other courses of care.
"For decades, our profession has delivered cost-effective care that changes lives, and for just as long, we have strived to demonstrate our value to policymakers, other health care providers, and the public," said APTA President Roger Herr, PT, MPA, in an association press release. "Our new study now allows us to make a compelling case for the impact of physical therapy on not only individuals but society as a whole."
Using the report as a centerpiece, APTA has rolled out a large-scale campaign aimed at sharing the findings with consumers, policymakers, and payers — and to help its members do the same. A full suite of resources is available at APTA’s Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States website and offers access to not only the report but separate condition analyses, a background on methodology, FAQs, and policy papers designed to help payers and policymakers better understand the report and how to leverage its findings. In addition, members are encouraged use campaign resources to increase public awareness of the report's findings — offerings include infographics, social media graphics, a promotional video, and more.
The eight conditions covered in the report are:
- Knee osteoarthritis.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Low back pain.
- Stress urinary incontinence.
- Tennis elbow.
- Vascular claudication.
- Falls prevention.
- Cancer rehabilitation.
In every case, the use of physical therapy was associated with a net economic benefit to the health system compared with alternative types of care. Those benefit estimates include $4,160 for acute low back pain, $10,129 for stress urinary incontinence, and $39,533 for carpal tunnel syndrome. APTA views the report as an evolving resource and will incorporate more condition analyses as they become available.
APTA engaged the Nous Group, an international management consulting firm specializing in health and economics, to develop the methodology for examining the costs and benefits of a selection of condition-specific physical therapist services. The research, which included a comprehensive literature review, was guided by APTA subject matter experts and work group volunteers.
"PTs and PTAs make the case for physical therapy every day, often on a deeply personal, one-to-one basis — this report shows how those individual impacts have the power to positively affect the health care system as a whole," said APTA CEO Justin Moore, PT, DPT. "The dramatic findings in this report are a springboard for our profession and those who support it to tell our story and foster better understanding of physical therapy's value at the federal, state, and community levels."