The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed many physician appointments, elective procedures, and medical tests. As restrictions ease, working through this backlog will be challenging. For people who have chronic pain, back pain, a bad knee, pelvic pain, injury from sport & recreational activity or other orthopedic issues, their best option may be to see a physical therapist first.
Physical Therapists are highly trained specialists who are well equipped to be the first point of contact for patients with musculoskeletal issues. California has direct access laws that allow patients to see a PT without seeing a physician first. In addition, research shows people who see a PT first have better outcomes, recover quicker, and spend less money and may not need surgery.
Because back pain is so common, there is a lot of outcome data from people with back pain. A study of 150,000 insurance claims published in Health Services Research found that those who saw a physical therapist at the first point of care had an 89 percent lower probability of receiving an opioid prescription, a 28 percent lower probability of having advanced imaging services such as an X-Ray or MRI, and a 15 percent lower probability of an emergency department visit.
The Mitchell Study published in Physical Therapy looked at outcomes when patients went to a PT first vs. seeing a physician first. It found that patients who went to their physician before their PT spent 65 percent more time recovering, and had 60percent more office visits than patients who went directly to their PT.
There are many studies showing that the faster you get to your PT, the less money you spend. A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy showed that patients who obtained physical therapy via direct access had significantly lower medical costs—an average of $1,543 less per patient than those who chose referral from a physician. The Mitchell study mentioned above found that the total cost for physician referral to physical therapists was 123 percent or 2.2 times higher than the paid claims for people who went straight to PT.
As the healthcare system tries to work through the backlog of delayed visits and procedures, using physical therapists as the first provider for patients with pain or orthopedic issues could take some of the pressure off of primary care physicians and orthopedists. It could also lead to better outcomes, quicker recoveries, and cost savings for patients. That’s a winning solution for everyone involved.
If you are experiencing new aches and pains or finding old aches and pains more irritating or perhaps you have been injured playing sports or games outside with the kids during this pandemic, give BEST PT a call at 408-257-2225 to get scheduled today!