Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Reduced Costs And Improved Outcomes Found When Patients See Physical Therapists First Instead Of Physicians For Musculoskeletal Pain

January 22, 2021


As healthcare costs and out of pocket deductibles continue to rise in our country patients have become more vigilant on treatment costs. In particular, patients are realizing the expenses associated with different entry points for their care. For muscle, joint, ligament, and tendon pain, seeing a Physical Therapist first (direct access) continues to be the most cost effective option for care. Part of this cost savings is due to a Physical Therapist’s decreased reliance on medications, injections, and imaging for musculoskeletal pain. Another important contributing factor includes our successful management of a patient’s symptoms with an increased emphasis on developing independence for their symptoms. A recent review of the medical literature documents how important direct access can be for reducing health care costs and improve patient outcomes.

Hon and colleagues analyzed the available research on the impact of seeing a Physical Therapist or physician first for musculoskeletal pain (PT. 2020). Authors reviewed 5 studies which met their inclusion criteria and reported on outcomes including cost, number of visits, and patient outcomes. They documented significant reductions in patient visits and health care costs when patients accessed a Physical Therapy first for their symptoms. In addition, a patient’s functional outcomes were significant better when patients saw a Physical Therapist first instead of a physician. Patient’s living in direct access states, including Colorado, are encouraged to seek care from a Physical Therapist first for their musculoskeletal symptoms.

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