Things aren’t always as they appear, and that’s certainly true when it comes to measuring the success of rehab therapy treatment. As any therapist knows, if you make decisions based on observational data alone, determining whether or not your treatment is making a difference can prove difficult. That’s why outcomes exist: they give therapists an objective, concrete way to measure patient improvement. But, a positive outcome score isn’t necessarily enough to tell you that your physical therapy treatment is effective. That’s where minimal clinically important differences (MCIDs) come into the picture.

Knock Out Patient Dropout: 8 Ways to Increase Retention and Revenue - Regular BannerKnock Out Patient Dropout: 8 Ways to Increase Retention and Revenue - Small Banner

What are MCIDs?

Tracking Patient Improvement

MCIDs are research values are that crucial to determining the efficacy of any given treatment modality or plan. In terms of physical therapy outcomes, MCIDs represent the minimum outcomes score change patients should experience in order for them, their providers, or other overseeing bodies to confirm that therapy is creating a positive difference.

Here are the MCIDs for a few common outcome measurement tools in rehab therapy:

Outcome Measurement Tool

Minimal Clinically Important Difference (MCID)

Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS)

⇧ Increase of 9 points

Modified Oswestry Disability Index (ODI)

⇩ Decrease of 12%

QuickDASH (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand)

⇩ Decrease of 18 points

Dizziness Handicap Inventory (DHI)

⇩ Decrease of 18 points

Neck Disability Index (NDI)

⇩ Decrease of 5 points

For example: Let’s say you’re treating a patient for chronic neck pain. You might use the Neck Disability Index to measure the patient’s initial level of disability and track his or her progress. Let’s also say that the patient began therapy with an NDI score of 33—which denotes “severe disability.” But over time, the patient’s score decreases to 26. In this scenario, 26 is still considered “severe disability”; however, the seven-point drop indicates a meaningful, objective, and measurable change, because it exceeds the MCID for the Neck Disability Index (which is a decrease of five points).

Why are they important?

Preventing Patient Dropout

Let’s face it: physical therapy isn’t exactly a cake walk for many patients. Sometimes, it can feel like an uphill battle, particularly if a patient doesn’t notice any significant improvement. When this happens, patients might disappear from therapy before they’ve completed treatment. However, if a patient is meeting the MCIDs for applicable outcome measures, you can prove to him or her that therapy is actually working—even if he or she hasn’t noticed a difference yet.

Updating Treatment Plans

While MCIDs can be instrumental in demonstrating the efficacy of therapy to patients, they can also play a crucial role in helping providers identify points along the course of care at which a patient’s treatment plan is in need of adjustment. As a provider, you can catch ineffective—or even contradictory—interventions by assessing the patient’s progress at regular intervals and comparing his or her outcomes to the applicable MCIDs.


You can’t always take things at face value. Just because you don’t observe a major change from week to week during the course of therapy treatment, it doesn’t mean improvement is non-existent. That’s why tracking outcomes is crucial to delivering meaningful results through evidence-based treatment interventions and modalities. By using MCIDs and outcomes in tandem, you can ensure that you’re delivering the best possible care to every patient—every time.

  • Outcomes and OMT FAQ Image

    articleApr 26, 2016 | 11 min. read

    Outcomes and OMT FAQ

    In January, we hosted a webinar focused on the importance of outcomes tracking in physical therapy. In addition to explaining why it’s absolutely critical that therapists collect objective data on patient progress, we highlighted a few of the reports available in WebPT Outcomes . With the move to a value-based payment environment already in full swing, outcomes tracking is a hot topic in the physical therapy space, and that meant lots of thoughtful question from our webinar …

  • Common Questions from Our Stalled Patient Progress Webinar Image

    articleFeb 7, 2018 | 9 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Stalled Patient Progress Webinar

    Earlier this week, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, the president and co-founder of WebPT, teamed up with Charlotte Bohnett, WebPT’s director of demand generation, to host a webinar on common barriers to patient progress —and strategies for overcoming them. During the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, we received quite a few audience questions on the nuances of fostering patient engagement and moving patients toward their therapy goals as efficiently as possible. We’ve compiled the most frequently …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    downloadJun 28, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    To say that the healthcare industry is complex would be an understatement. While the advent of technology has made care more precise, efficient, and collaborative than ever before, it has also put greater pressure on providers to deliver high-value care at scale. After all, big data makes it possible to not only develop the most effective, evidence-based best practices for individual diagnoses, but also form evidence-based strategies for managing the health of populations. In the spirit of …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy Image

    downloadJul 14, 2017

    The State of Rehab Therapy

    To see results from our most recent industry survey, check out the 2018 State of Rehab Therapy Report. Health care is not a static industry. It’s always changing, evolving, and progressing. No healthcare provider is immune to the effects of that change, but some—including physical, occupational, and speech therapists—have felt a greater impact than others. In an effort to assess the scope of that impact—and thus, better anticipate the future needs of the rehab therapy community—WebPT conducted …

  • You’ve Got Outcomes—Now What? Image

    articleMay 6, 2016 | 3 min. read

    You’ve Got Outcomes—Now What?

    The launch of WebPT Outcomes is officially complete—which means every single WebPT clinic now has the ability to collect and track patient outcomes data directly within the EMR. And as you may have heard from our president and founder, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, that’s kind of a big deal . But, as Uncle Ben (Peter Parker’s uncle—not the rice guy) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We’d be doing our Members—and the entire healthcare community at …

  • 6 Stress Reduction Tips for PTs, OTs, and SLPs Image

    articleApr 12, 2019 | 6 min. read

    6 Stress Reduction Tips for PTs, OTs, and SLPs

    When you work as a rehab therapist, no two days are the same. And while that can be exciting (who enjoys monotony?), it can also create a lot of stress. Add in the fact that you’re working with patients who may be frustrated, in pain, or just generally grumpy, and you’ve got a whole lot to handle day-in and day-out. This holds especially true if you’re feeling overworked and under-supported, which can often happen in a busy …

  • WebPT Outcomes OMT Reference Guide Image

    downloadDec 22, 2016

    WebPT Outcomes OMT Reference Guide

    Ever feel like the results your patients achieve don’t match up to the statistics your payers bring to the negotiation table? Now you can prove them wrong. Collecting objective patient data can help you, the rehab therapist, yield better patient outcomes—and pad your bottom line in the process. And that’s kind of a big deal in today’s value-based healthcare system. Today, with the right practice management tools—including WebPT Outcomes—it’s easier than ever to set concrete performance goals …

  • Stalled Out: 5 Reasons Your Patients Aren't Progressing (and What to Do About Them) Image

    webinarDec 22, 2017

    Stalled Out: 5 Reasons Your Patients Aren't Progressing (and What to Do About Them)

    If life is a highway, then it’s a wild, bumpy one. And while our patients want to ride it (all night long), with all those twists, turns, and potholes, they’re bound to get banged up. Fortunately, you’re here to help get them back in top form. But, helping patients achieve their goals is hard work—for you and for them—and while everyone strives to be a Ferrari, it’s common to plateau at Pinto. And that’s when the risk …

  • Founder Letter: Why I’m Betting on Outcomes Image

    articleFeb 4, 2016 | 5 min. read

    Founder Letter: Why I’m Betting on Outcomes

    I’m not much of a gambler. Some folks enjoy the rush that comes with putting all their chips on the table and risking everything on a single roll of the dice. Well, no offense to all you card sharks out there, but if I’m going to go all in, it better be on something I’m pretty darn sure of. So, when I say I’m betting on outcomes, you know I’m not bluffing. In fact, I’m 100% confident …

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