According to Sir Francis Bacon, knowledge itself is power—and we couldn’t agree more. However, there’s a lot happening in the healthcare industry right now, and staying knowledgeable about everything can certainly feel like a daunting task. That’s why we’ve curated seven of the most thought-provoking facts about physical therapy and put them together in one quick-read post. Without further ado, here are some bite-sized bits of knowledge. Just remember, with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.

(Please note: Any fact that doesn’t link to an outside source is based on statistical analysis Strive Labs  conducted on more than 30,000 pieces of insurance data from claims processed in 2012 that were submitted by privately owned outpatient physical therapy clinics in a specific geographical area.)

1. Each year, half of all Americans over the age of 18 will develop a musculoskeletal injury that lasts longer than three months (according to this resource). That’s more than a hundred million people who could benefit from seeing a physical therapist.

2. In 2011, only about 11.7 million adults took advantage of outpatient physical therapy services (according to this resource), which means only 9.58% of the people who could have benefited from our services ever received them. Even if these numbers have positively shifted over the past several years, it’s still safe to say that we have a ways to go before we realize our potential as the practitioner of choice for patients with musculoskeletal injuries. We must continue (and dare I say, double down) our efforts to increase consumer adoption—and that means we have to expand our marketing efforts to target potential patients directly.

3. The average outpatient course of care is only seven to 10 sessions, and reimbursement rates—as well as the number of payer-approved visits for physical therapy services—are remaining largely stagnant and, in some cases, decreasing (according to this resource and this one). This fact may trigger anger or frustration, but read on, because even if insurance companies don’t increase their number of PT visits—or their reimbursement rates—there are things we can do to help our patients and our revenue streams.

4. Only 30% of patients who receive outpatient physical therapy services attend all the visits their insurance company authorizes. That means that the majority of patients aren’t completing their course of care, which means we may not be effectively communicating the value of doing so. After all, when our patients are in a lot of pain at the onset of care, they’re much more likely to prioritize PT over just about anything else. However, once they start to feel better—even if they haven’t met their functional goals and could still benefit from receiving physical therapy—attending sessions becomes less of a priority, and things like missing work and hiring a babysitter may not seem as worthwhile as they once did. But, that’s where we come in. It is up to us as PTs to articulate the value of finishing care, decrease patients’ perceived barriers to continuing treatment, and help them reach their goals.

5. As a result of patients not completing their courses of care, the average outpatient physical therapy practice loses out on approximately $250,000 of revenue per year. (Note: For this calculation, we set the average rate of reimbursement per visit at $100, which we based on the 2012 annual report by US Physical Therapy, Inc.) A clinic’s revenue is directly tied to reimbursement, so if a patient is authorized to receive ten visits, but only attends eight, then the clinic only accrues 80% of the potential revenue and leaves 20% on the table.

6. Only 35% of physical therapy patients fully adhere to their plans of care (according to this resource). While we tend to think of compliance as binary—either a patient is or is not compliant—it’s actually multifactorial and largely correlated with the concepts of behavior change theory. It’s no coincidence that most Americans don’t get enough exercise and most patients don’t fully adhere to their plans of care. After all, it’s exponentially harder to do something than to do nothing. But, we can help by ensuring our patients have the support, tools, and encouragement they need to complete their home exercise programs outside of the clinic and thus, adhere to those programs.

7. Many PTs report not feeling confident in their ability to apply the concepts of behavioral change theory in clinical practice (according to this resource). If the terms “self-efficacy,” “transtheoretical model,” and “decisional balance” aren’t ringing any bells, it’s time to hit the books—or at least the Internet—because we have a unique opportunity to provide positive and lasting outcomes to our patients in a cost-effective manner. But, in order for these outcomes to be sticky (i.e., long lasting), we need to help our patients adopt healthy habits. After all, helping our patients feel better—and stay that way—is where our goals intersect with the patient’s and the payer’s. That’s where we can differentiate ourselves. That’s where we can win. But we won’t be able to get very far unless we can understand and implement the steps necessary to affect behavior change.


There you have it: seven thought-provoking facts about physical therapy you can't ignore. Have your own thought-provoking fact to add to the list? Share it with us in the comment section below.

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