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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

CSM 2012: Health Policy: Proving Our Value

Published February 10, 2012 7:35 PM by Lisa Lombardo

Bringing good research to realization is the key to lobby the PT profession to health care policymakers-and therapists can get involved in bringing the profession to the forefront.

Marc S. Goldstein, EdD, senior director of research for APTA, wants the organization "to be a bridge with the research realm to the policy realm," he said during part 2 of "Physical Therapists Impacting Health Policy Through Health Services Research: A Survival Strategy for Health Care Reform," held Feb. 9 at the Combined Sections Meeting.

Many PT studies never address economic issues, and APTA lobbyists need that information to make their case on the Hill, he noted. "It's all about showing the value of PT. Within the scope of the Health Care Affordability Act, we're in competition of sorts with other health care providers for health care dollars. We need to prove the value of the services we provide to compete."

APTA has organized a Public Policy Priorities group to identify PT research priorities, based on its strategic plan, Dr. Goldstein said. Included are issues teams forming to bring staff together to study professional issues APTA members need more knowledge on. "We need to be on top of changes to delivery of care before we are hit by [them]," he said. APTA has budgeted $125,000 devoted to planning for the issues groups, and encouraged attendees to find out more about them in their areas of specialty.

Calling himself a "natural pessimist," Dr. Goldstein stressed that the profession has to position itself in front of research data gathering, because it is the biggest tool in selling the value of the profession and helping APTA lobby for decision-making clout on health policy. "If we aren't proactive, we might find ourselves in the ‘valley of death'-that 17 or so year gap between when research is done and when the data is finally produced-unless we come up with new and better data. Our number one motivation is providing correct care to all of our patients, not just the economics, and that is what motivates our research. Overall, it doesn't matter how ‘elegant' or thought-out the research is, if it doesn't help us impact patient care in a more positive and economically efficient manner, with the right outcomes," he said, to attendee applause.

Delivering the Data

Getting solid data on PT research in front of the policy makers in Washington is more important than ever, said Justin Moore, PT, DPT, director of public policy and professional affairs for APTA. "Becoming consumers of health services data changes the game for us," he said. "Information and data on our research, and what we can back up with data to impact policy changes, is the new currency of public policy."

Dr. Moore said in the face of the current divisive government climate, research is even more important if the profession wants to impact changes in health policy that are coming down the pike. "It takes a lot of education of Congress on our own professional mission and goals, they want more and more information. The door was shut in our face in 2003 when MedPAC was told we didn't have the data to back up our efforts supporting direct access under the Medicare Drug Act. Policy makers want more proof in [the health care interventions] they are paying for."

The role of PT has to change as a result of upcoming health care reform, he said. "We have to prove our value-what is the best value at the most efficient cost?" He noted that the PT profession is one of the fastest-growing service providers. "We have a top rate of growth and policymakers want to know why."

With health care law changes, there will be a shift in who gets access, and the key is to show how well physical therapy services are used. "It comes down to reducing costs, improving access, and enhancing the quality of care," Dr. Moore said. "We see the next two years to 2014 as key; in effect, we have to show that health services research is a major part of our profession to end up a winner in health care reform."

What Can PTs Do?

Dr. Moore had suggestions for how APTA members and the profession at large can be a part of the efforts for health services research:

  1. Talk about APTA's health services research; volunteer in your state. "We need more messengers and more advocacy on this plan," he said.
  2. Propose grants to universities and groups where possible;
  3. Partner with academic and patient groups, and other health care providers supporting health services research.



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