Physical Therapists Are Impacting Healthcare Design - Mayo Center for Innovation

Physical Therapist And The Impact On Healthcare Design

Post Written By Alyson Kraft

When it comes to innovation, physical therapists and occupational therapists are ahead of the curve. Their office is essentially your grandmother’s craft closet consisting of elastic bands, foam instruments and interesting doohickeys that can be used for a variety of treatments. They have the creative ability to think on their feet and contrive new ways of performing an exercise which may otherwise cause the patient to experience pain. They are designers; it is in their nature. So, why are they valued less than today’s surgeons?

First and foremost, insurance companies do not argue with the opinions of surgeons. If a surgeon deems a surgical procedure as a necessary component of a patient’s plan of care, the surgery will be completed. The opposite is true for physical or occupational therapy. Many insurance companies refuse to be held accountable for medical bills accumulated from such categorized visits. They may argue that the treatment is experimental or that it will not benefit the patient, ultimately creating more work and frustration for both the provider and the patient. Therefore, rather than getting caught up in an intransitive debate with insurance companies about which treatment is appropriate, providers generally begin with surgery and prescribe post-surgical physical therapy.

Furthermore, Jose Gomez-Marquez, director of MIT’s small device innovation program, argues that physical and occupational therapists are debased because surgeons provide patients with the ‘now’ rather than the ‘later’, a quality that produces the utmost appeal to patients. In order for physical and occupational therapy to be effective, the patient must practice the exercises consistently. Healing takes time--time that the patient may not choose to devote, which practitioners are well aware of.

So what is all of this costing medical institutions and patients? Are insurance companies creating greater financial debt than is really necessary? After all, surgery is far more expensive than physical therapy and may be more time consuming when evaluating long-term outcomes. Perhaps we should put those creative skills that physical and occupational therapists possess to use for the betterment and affluence of our patients. We need to value those clinicians who are executing unique treatment techniques and who are crafting new ideas through the use of multipurpose instruments that are readily available.

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