Practice Experience Podcast: Patient-Centered Advocacy

In this episode of the Practice Experience Podcast, host Dr. Heidi Jannenga and Dr. Nick Patel of the APTQI discuss the importance oc patient advocacy and how it is shaping the future of PT.

Ryan Giebel
5 min read
May 16, 2024
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Advocacy is an idea that many long-serving rehab therapists have tended to avoid in the past. Whether that's due to a lack of bandwidth while they focus on actual healthcare delivery for their current caseloads or a learned apathy from years of failed efforts, this lack of response from rehab professionals has only served to reinforce the notion that nothing can or will change in the profession.

While that cynicism may be well-earned based on past trends, it's not the right approach to building a better future. Anyone who has a passion for rehab therapy and a desire to champion the cause should embrace advocacy—specifically patient advocacy.

In this episode of The Practice Experience Podcast, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer at WebPT, and Dr. Nikesh "Nick" Patel, PT, DPT, Executive Director at the APTQI (Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation), get to the root of advocacy and why it is so important to PT’s future.

To help you get invested in PT and patient advocacy, Heidi and Nick will take us to Capitol Hill, and beyond, tackling subjects like: 

  • the roles rehab therapists have to play in advocacy,
  • why rehab therapists should care about advocacy (even after graduation), and
  • the future of advocacy efforts in rehab therapy.

Episode Highlights: Focus on Patient Advocacy

On the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation

Nick: We have fantastic members like [WebPT], and we have a highly motivated board with big goals that we work toward. Not only do we share financial resources, but we bring some of the brightest and most fascinating minds in the outpatient therapy space to brainstorm on ways that we can make therapy better. Most everyone in our group has treated patients, or they work with people who treat patients every day. They know what it's like to have patients who are coming to you and have problems with access to care.

On How Empathy Led to Advocacy

Nick: Empathy is a huge part of rehab therapy. I think the best clinicians have great empathy. If the therapist can empathize with the person sitting across from them that they’re trying to educate about therapy, it inherently makes you a good advocate. I think that's what got me down that path to advocacy.

On the Benefits of Passing the SAFE Act

Nick: I think that our members agree with me that we have to create patient-centric bills. That's what the Safe Act did: it uses the annual wellness benefit that Medicare recipients get at no cost to them. And it takes advantage of a few universally known facts. One is if you can screen for something, you can work to prevent it. Two, you want an expert in that screening field to be doing the test. Because, you don't want to be screened for colon cancer by your dermatologist, right? PTs are the perfect providers to screen for falls. That leads to three: when you make something at no cost to the patient, the patients are going to use that benefit more. So what the safe fact does is combine all those three things into one bill. When they come into our clinics, we can do a full fall risk assessment on them.

On Getting the SAFE Act Passed

Nick: It's a bipartisan bill, which is hard to find in DC these days. But we also have to get the administration to understand what we're trying to do. So the APTQI is meeting with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Domestic Policy Council—which basically are the staffers that advise the president on what to do with healthcare policy—and then, we're going to talk about this as a patient-centered bill and meet with the Gerontological Society of America, Families USA, and AARP.

On the Power of Patient Advocacy

Nick: One patient letter is worth five therapist letters. If you're working in the clinic, and you have some time with your patient, bring your phone over, give them the link, and say, “Hey, if you got five seconds, fill this out for me. I'd really appreciate it. It's for me and you.” I think you would find that most people love therapists, and they are happy to help us. All we have to do is ask and get out of the passive mindset to be more active about being a voice for our profession.

On the Future of Patient Advocacy for Therapists

Nick: 2025 is going to be a big year for us. I know we're in 2024, but—looking ahead—there's going to be a lot of ability to change the fee schedule at the end of 2025. This is due to a bill that passed some number of years ago, and it expires at the end of 2025. We're at the precipice of an opportunity to reshape payment…So my advice is, watch this space, be extra involved, be extra studious about what's happening, and be nimble. Sometimes these decisions get made very quickly and you want whoever's making some decisions to have your interests at heart about how our outcomes are to others, how our payment is compared to others, and how our salaries are compared to others. 

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