Rehab therapists have always had to keep a close eye on the healthcare policy developments emanating from our nation’s capitol. And the need for vigilance on the reform front will certainly continue into 2017—and beyond. From the move to a value-based payment system and adoption of alternative payment models to possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, these real—and potential—developments will no doubt affect how PTs deliver patient care and the manner in which they get reimbursed.

But, these changes—and the overall air of unpredictability in the US healthcare industry—certainly didn’t temper the enthusiasm and spirit of the thousands upon thousands of rehab therapy professionals who converged last week in sunny San Antonio, Texas, during the APTA’s 2017 Combined Sections Meeting (CSM). It was quite a sight to see throngs of PTs, OTs, and students take over the Alamo City for three jam-packed days. And with so many young conference-goers in attendance, I’d say the future of health care—and rehab therapy in particular—is quite bright. After all, they’re already immersing themselves in the trends and issues that’ll shape their profession in the years to come. On that note, here’s a rundown of the top-trending topics from this year’s conference.

The Physical Therapists Guide to Contract Negotiation - Regular BannerThe Physical Therapists Guide to Contract Negotiation - Small Banner

Technology’s Role in Leveraging Data

Turn to a robust EMR.

Flying your car to work and cooking pizza in a matter of seconds may not be a reality just yet—thanks for nothing, Back to the Future. Still, technology is integral to modern industry—and that includes the healthcare industry. Electronic medical records (EMRs) in particular will continue to take on more prominence in a value-based system. In fact, enlisting a dependable, top-of-the-line EMR within your clinical practice not only creates greater workflow efficiencies, but also keeps your data secure and helps you improve clinical and business performance. Additionally, EMRs can make your life easier with built-in scheduling functionality and integrated billing capabilities. But, if the discussions at CSM 2017 are any indication, it’s arguably just as important that therapy providers enlist a system with built-in outcomes data-tracking.

Use your data to improve patient care.

During a session titled, “Emerging Issues in Medicare and Health Care Reform,” Heather Smith, PT, MPH, likened outcomes tracking within an EMR to collecting personal fitness data via wearable devices like Fitbits. In the same way that exercisers can create tailored running or workout routines based on that data, PTs can tailor—and adjust—patient care based on the data they collect from a wide variety of outcome measures. “All of a sudden, quality improvement doesn’t look that bad,” said Smith, who serves as the APTA’s program director of quality. “Technology will be used to decrease our burden, so we can focus more on patients to achieve better outcomes.”

Data’s Part in Lowering Healthcare Costs

Focus on the triple aim.

And that’s really what it’s all about, anyway. As we’ve discussed time and again on the WebPT Blog—and as multiple CSM speakers hammered home during their presentations—outcomes tracking serves the triple aim of improving care quality, increasing access, and lowering costs. And those rehab therapists who commit to tracking patient outcomes will empower their profession to take on a greater role in managing patients at the population level versus merely the patient level, said Roshunda Drummond-Dye, JD. But it’s not some quick, overnight undertaking.

Employ a standardized outcomes tracking process.

Drummond-Dye, who serves as the APTA’s director of regulatory affairs, said therapists can’t simply track any and all data; it’s got to be “accurate, aggregated data” that assesses patient and therapist performance through standardized outcomes. More specifically, therapists should be collecting data that benefits providers outside the rehab therapy realm. “Taking these steps will help you provide better, optimal care and better manage your payer contracts.”

The Importance of Provider-to-Provider Teamwork

Commit to cooperation.

As I mentioned above, integrating a teamwork-first philosophy across the healthcare continuum ultimately will encourage different speciality providers to begin speaking the same language—and, more importantly, to be on the same page when treating patients. And this approach to care will only become more and more common as insurers continue to roll out new alternative payment models (APMs)—Medicare aims to have 50% of all fee-for-service payments come from APMs by 2018—to eliminate wasteful healthcare spending. Speaking of payment trends, Smith said adoption of the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) bundled payment model—which requires care coordination among providers working in clinics, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and hospitals involved in a single episode of care—will continue to grow in scope.

See the writing on the payment bundle wall.

That’s because all total hip and knee replacement episodes—including post-op rehab services—will eventually fall under the CJR. And as we’ve explained in previous blog posts, all providers involved in a single episode of care must work under a single budget. As Smith indicated, this is a big consideration as we inch closer to a full-out value-based payment system. “It’s important to recognize that [CJR] will be an integral part of the overall care continuum,” she said. “We will be challenged to raise the bar and think of populations of patients [to achieve better outcomes].”


There you have it—some of the most-buzzed-about topics at CSM 2017. Did you make it to San Antonio this year? Which presentations caught your eye and left you wanting more? Tell us in the comment section below. Finally, don’t forget to visit the WebPT Blog on Thursday for a recap of a few of my favorite sessions.

  • 6 Biggest Takeaways from PPS 2015 Image

    articleNov 16, 2015 | 10 min. read

    6 Biggest Takeaways from PPS 2015

    Last week, I joined hundreds of amazing physical therapy professionals, students, and vendors (including yours truly, WebPT) at this year's PPS Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. Despite the uncomfortable combination of tropical heat and humidity outside—and near-freezing conference rooms inside—everyone was in high spirits. Though I never made it to Disney World, I still felt like I was in the most magical place on Earth, thanks to the inspiring and informative presentations I saw and the thought-provoking …

  • Final Thoughts from CSM: Outcomes, Payment Reform, and—Purple Cows? Image

    articleFeb 9, 2015 | 19 min. read

    Final Thoughts from CSM: Outcomes, Payment Reform, and—Purple Cows?

    By Saturday morning, attendees of the APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) were moving with a little less pep in their step—and a couple extra shots of espresso in their morning coffee. Still, the educational sessions on the final day of CSM were chock full of eager learners looking to eat up a few more morsels of wisdom before catching their planes home from Indy. Here are some highlights from day three’s informational smorgasbord (check out recaps from …

  • The State of Interoperability in Outpatient Rehab Therapy  Image

    articleJan 2, 2017 | 6 min. read

    The State of Interoperability in Outpatient Rehab Therapy

    We’ve been talking about the importance of interoperability in health care for a while now—in articles like this one , this one , and this one . And while the idea of open, seamless data exchange among healthcare systems and providers always seemed like a great thing to have, it’s quickly becoming much more of a must-have. That’s because a collaborative-care, pay-for-performance healthcare model requires that providers from all disciplines actually communicate with one another in real-time …

  • The Physical Therapist's Guide to Contract Negotiation Image

    downloadSep 15, 2016

    The Physical Therapist's Guide to Contract Negotiation

    As a PT, you put your heart and soul into your work. So, it’s only fair that you get paid what you deserve. Unfortunately, payers don’t often see it that way, which means that in order to get what you want out of your private payer contracts, you’ve got to negotiate. And to do so successfully, you need to know how to play ball. Enter your email address below, and we’ll send your free guide.

  • Founder Letter: 4 Predictions for PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017 Image

    articleJan 5, 2017 | 15 min. read

    Founder Letter: 4 Predictions for PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017

    Last year, I laid out a handful of predictions for 2016 —and what do you know? Most of them were spot on. In fact, much of what I covered—think interoperability, the importance of data collection, payment reform, and the push toward private practice consolidation—are all holding strong and will surely continue into 2017 (well, barring any unforeseeable curveballs to the state of health care as we know it, that is). In the meantime, though, here’s what I …

  • So Long to Silos: Why Health Systems Must Embrace Interoperability Now Image

    articleSep 9, 2016 | 5 min. read

    So Long to Silos: Why Health Systems Must Embrace Interoperability Now

    Rome wasn’t built in a day—and interoperability across all health data systems won’t be achieved overnight. In fact, we’ve been paving the road to complete connectivity for several years now , and there’s still no definitive end in sight. But now, more than ever, the companies providing those systems have some serious incentive to hasten the pace of their construction efforts: I’m talking about the nationwide push toward value-based, patient-centered care delivery . After all, to succeed …

  • From Rx to UX: How Cloud-Based EMR Platforms Improve Patient Satisfaction Image

    articleAug 11, 2017 | 6 min. read

    From Rx to UX: How Cloud-Based EMR Platforms Improve Patient Satisfaction

    Years ago—maybe even decades now—patient satisfaction in health care was simply icing on the cake. Today, it’s the icing, the cake, and the serving platter. In fact, keeping your patients satisfied is the only way to ensure you receive payment in this new pay-for-performance era—not to mention, it’s the absolute best way to improve word-of-mouth referrals and boost your practice’s presence online . In other words, patient satisfaction is pretty darn important, and if you’re using a …

  • All that Jazz: Top Takeaways from PPS 2017 Image

    articleNov 9, 2017 | 7 min. read

    All that Jazz: Top Takeaways from PPS 2017

    As I pulled my scarf high up over my wind-chapped cheeks, dodged a car that nearly hit me as I made my way across the crosswalk, and heard the L train rattle the platform above my head, it wasn’t hard to imagine the likes of Al Capone or John Dillinger leading police on a wild goose chase through downtown Chicago. There’s no doubt that the Windy City is rich with history, but last week, Chi-Town was abuzz …

  • Live from CSM: Changing Perspectives on Prevention and Direct Access Image

    articleFeb 5, 2015 | 10 min. read

    Live from CSM: Changing Perspectives on Prevention and Direct Access

    With snow boots cinched and hot coffees in hand, thousands of physical therapy professionals and students have descended upon chilly Indianapolis, Indiana, for the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) annual Combined Sections Meeting (CSM). In addition to checking out the latest and greatest PT tools and technologies—including, ahem, certain cloud-based EMR software —on the trade show floor, attendees will spend the next few days filling their brains with all of the latest and greatest PT news and …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.