therapy is, and always will be, about exceptional patient care. Therapists want to improve the lives of their patients. From Ancient Greece to World Wars I and II to today, physical therapy has been about treating people, not research methods. It’s no surprise, then, that the profession isn’t as evidence-based as other medical professions.
But times are a-changin’, and everyone from insurance companies to the educational and medical fields are craving uniformity, autonomy, and validity. Evidence-based practice has become essential. WebPT owner Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L, puts it quite succinctly: “It’s time to prove what we do works.” How do we do that?
What better way to prove what you do than to set up and complete studies within your own facility? Easier said than done, sure, but you can enlist help. Find nearby schools with therapy programs. Students typically must complete capstone projects for their doctoral degree, and a study within your clinic makes a fine final project. Plus, college students totally understand that whole research methods thing. For an example of a therapy student study, check out Lauren Baier’s undergraduate thesis. She studied how video and photos in WebPT’s Home Exercise Program influence patient compliance.
Need an idea for your study? Want to know what’s already been done? Seek out knowledge! Stay current on advancements within the rehab community by subscribing to journals, following blogs, interacting with folks on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, attending seminars and conferences—anything. Just don’t stop learning—ever.
Eliminate Bad Practice
As you look for studies within the therapy field, you may find some disproven practices. If that’s the case, put that particular practice to rest! Don’t let bad practice persist. Case in point: phonophoresis. Numerous (here, here, here, and here) controlled clinical trials have failed to demonstrate that administering analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents via ultrasound (phonophoresis) increases the rate or extent of absorption of these agents. So why continue to use phonophoresis?
Technology can help with consistency and autonomy. Have you read fellow WebPT copywriter Erica’s blog post on Dartfish? If not, check it out. Dartfish’s nifty technology documents patients’ movements and provides immediate visual feedback you and your patients can use to better identify mobility problems. The side-by-side comparison feature also allows you to examine before and after images to see progress and thus validate your treatment program.
Another tech tool you can rely on? Your EMR (and I’m not just saying that as a proud WebPT team member). An EMR, especially a therapy-specific one, has a plethora of tests and outcome measurement tools. There are also time comparisons and statistical reports. All of these help you create consistent treatment plans, protocols, and schedules with documented results—the perfect platform for achieving evidence-based practice.
Whether you’re working with a university to conduct a study or measuring analytics within your EMR, the biggest part of evidence-based practice is showing progress. Just as you help patients achieve their goals, make sure you’re setting goals for yourself and your clinic.
This last one is simple: care about your profession. Evidence-based practice is all about improving the field. It’s time everyone upped their game. Yes, it’s more time and energy, but improving the rehab community benefits you as a therapist and more importantly, your patients. And that’s what it’s all about.
Does this discussion sound familiar? It seems to align with the #solvePT dialog unfolding on Twitter. What do you think? We’d love your feedback.