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PT on the Run

Hum-PT-y Dum-PT-y Sat on a Wall

Published February 27, 2014 3:07 PM by Michael Kelley

Editor's Note: Throughout the month of February, ADVANCE bloggers Michael Kelley and Lisa Mueller will post "Dueling Blogs," in which they argue opposing sides of the same issue. Topic #4 -- "What Is the Biggest Challenge to the PT Profession?")

When you have a fever, you go see the doctor. When you have a toothache, you go see the dentist. When you break a bone, you go see the orthopedic surgeon. And when you strain a muscle, you go see... who again? This week, Lisa and I are talking what walls stand before our profession that are limiting our growth and effectiveness. For me, I don't know that there is just one primary entity to blame here, but rather a combination of things. I'm going to discuss them by saying one major barrier to our profession is access.

For me, access to PT is not just about being able to see a PT, it starts with the public understanding what physical therapy is along with what physical therapists are licensed to do and capable of doing. Here in Chicago, a number of large companies have multiple PT clinics scattered around the city and suburbs, but rarely do I see or hear any mass media advertising for them. I do see a number of these companies represented at various community or charity races (5Ks and the like) but I feel most of the people participating in these events already know to some extent what PT is and what we can do for patients.

I think PTs need to come out of their shell a little and really learn to market themselves to their communities through all forms of media. I think most business-minded individuals (which I most definitely am not) would say "word of mouth" is one of the best forms of communication. I agree, but in such a competitive healthcare marketplace, is that really enough?

Along with educating the public on what we as PTs are capable of doing for them, I think access to actually obtaining PT services has some major roadblocks as well. As discussed in previous blogs of mine, the insurance industry holds some serious power when it comes to who can receive PT services and what PT interventions they can receive. This power obviously comes in the form of reimbursement. I don't think the insurance industry is entirely sadistic or anything, as they clearly have a vested interest in what we do, but the role PTs play in the reimbursement and insurance coverage processes should be more substantial.

Now bringing this notion to fruition is going to take some serious work on our parts and is likely going to take a considerable amount of time. In my mind, we need a group that can effectively lobby not only governmental leaders, but also leaders within the insurance industry. If the insurance companies want to pay us more money, they don't need an act of law to say they can. They just need solid evidence that the treatments we're providing are worthwhile and effective and may prevent further injuries or ailments that would result in more claims needing to be paid out by them.

Access to the knowledge of what PTs do and access to quality, effective PT services are clearly barriers to our profession as a whole. I think they are barriers that can be overcome with hard work and patience. What about you? What do you think are the important walls standing in front of us that need to be torn down in order for our profession to grow?

I'd like to thank everyone for their feedback and comments over the past few weeks. It's been a great exchange of ideas between Lisa and I, and I want to thank Lisa for participating in these "Dueling Blogs." Next week, we part ways, but I'm sure many great topics will continue to be discussed on both our blogs for a long time to come.

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