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Raising the Bar in Rehab

The APTA: Membership Is Valuable

Published February 6, 2014 3:18 PM by Lisa Mueller

(Editor's Note: Throughout the month of February, ADVANCE bloggers Lisa Mueller and Michael Kelley will post "Dueling Blogs," in which they argue opposing sides of the same issue. Topic #1 -- "Is APTA Membership Valuable?")

More than five years ago when I was a student of physical therapy at Marquette University, APTA membership was highly encouraged by my professors. At the time, I perceived the APTA as a requirement that was necessary for my schooling, but also felt like I was finally a professional when I received my membership information. I was part of something! Beyond feeling a sense of belonging, I believe the APTA is a valuable tool to the physical therapy profession and offers both members and non-members important benefits. is a patient-facing portal that proves singlehandedly the impact of the APTA. This site houses a collection of symptoms/diagnoses and promotes in each example the ways physical therapy can play a role in recovery. Prospective patients can easily navigate through information on Medicare caps and locating a physical therapist, as well as read through the benefits physical therapy offers. If you look at other professional association websites (American Chiropractic Association, for example), you'll find gaps compared to the APTA's site. It's a wonderful resource to use with patients and a prime example of how the APTA adds value to the physical therapy profession.

Direct access, while not completely accepted by all physical therapists, would not have happened without the APTA's support and advocacy. The APTA's advocacy efforts at the national and state levels help the physical therapy profession stay on top of legislative issues, including Medicare standards. The APTA helps translate the changing requirements so physical therapists can focus on patient care while they do the "grunt work" in the background.

Finally, the APTA helps develop and communicate evidence for improved clinical decision-making and treatment. Membership to the APTA includes access to articles and abstracts, and monthly mailing of the PT Journal keeps therapists updated on new research. I probably wouldn't be as informed about evidence-based practice if it weren't for the APTA's efforts.

Continuous improvement is a part of every group -- colleagues, marriages, families, associations, and governments. The APTA has room for improvement like any of those and I'm confident they will be a strong factor in the advancement of the physical therapy profession in the years to come.

What do you think? Are the benefits of the APTA worth the membership? What would the APTA need to offer to gain your membership, if you aren't already?

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Unfortunately, we live in a time where the prevailing attitude is "What's in it for me?"  And worse, "I want it now!"  It seems today that most people lack any sense of vision or long term commitment to a goal or purpose.  

But take heart, you are not alone.  Last week a local DC sent our organization a letter wanting to know what our organization was going to do for him.  A valid question from a member, but this individual was not even a member nor ever was!  

And this is the mentality of most people.  They want their agenda addressed and others ignored or postponed.  They expect immediate action and an immediate response and little or no consideration for the overall health of the profession.

They want laws that are favorable to their practices and information campaigns to improve public awareness and improve their bottom lines with nary a thought as to the meager resources available to their professional organization and their bottom line.

Most fail to understand the current reality that private practices are on their way out the door along with the concept of "fee for service" as the payment model.  Why is direct access so important?  Because to operate in the new environment of PCMH's, ACO's and NMHC's direct access will be necessary if you want to be a key player.  

Clearly, the APTA's leadership has a solid handle on these events in the healthcare environment.  Rarely do the field practitioners find the time or interest to become conversant with the changing landscape, offer their time or energy or even fund their professional organization.  Yet they have plenty of time to rail against the what is recommended.

Sorry for the long post.  Its just this barely begins to scratch the surface of many intertwined issues.  Please keep up the great work and asking the hard questions.  Bob

Robert DeSantis, DC February 23, 2014 12:18 PM

Hello Lisa, I applaud your efforts to increase membership in your organization.  One avenue explored for the chiropractic profession was mentioned in an earlier post by you, make membership mandatory for licensure.  As our learned executive officer and in house counsel has advised,

"No one, even professionals, can be forced to join one group or another under State or Federal law.

In terms of health care, this has been richly litigated with regard to hospital privileges -- i.e., at one time, hospitals required that a physician or other provider applying for admitting and other privileges to be a member of the local and/or state medical society.  

Courts struck those provisions down as not relevant to the duties physician's owed to patients plying their trade in a hospital environment.  Hospitals could not force candidates applying for hospital privileges to join the local or state medical society or the AMA. In a similar manner, states cannot make membership in any private or quasi-private/public organization a requirement to obtain a state license.  

To mandate such a provision necessarily involves a "slippery slope" type argument -- where do you stop and who gets to decide.  In that sense, before an attorney could be licensed, in theory he or she might be required to join the ACLU or its opposite, the KKK, John Birch Society, etc.  Won't happen."

You simply have to win their hearts and minds.

Robert DeSantis, DC February 23, 2014 11:55 AM
New Windsor NY

Very well said! Thank you all for the great feedback

Luke, couldn't have written that any better. I completely agree with you.

Lisa Mueller February 11, 2014 8:59 PM

The APTA is only as good as the level of active involvement of it's members.  I'm a PTA, and sure there are some things I'd like to see done differently at APTA.  I choose to be a member not because of what's in it for me, but for the greater good of the profession.  I operate under the theory that if we keep doing the right things for the right reasons, we will all be better off in the long run.  It is perplexing to me why PTA's complain about not getting any respect from APTA but yet they are not members and they do nothing to promote change.  There is strength in numbers.  And right now, we (PTA's) don't have the numbers.  Thankfully we have some dedicated and talented PTA leaders who ARE working to advance the profession as well as the role of the PTA.

Luke Markert February 11, 2014 7:53 AM

I was a member and a secretary for our local district.  Then in 1998 I saw PPS coming and where was the APTA?  Did the APTA protect jobs and inform the PT community about the reimbursements?

Looking at what an organization can do for me I would rather put my money back into my local community, ie, Red Cross.  Besides, doesn't the APTA still consider PTA's 1/2 a professional with 1/2 a vote?  

I have more of a voice at the local elections than I do as a professional in an organization that has some crazy ideas regarding the RC's.

Jason Marketti February 7, 2014 12:10 AM

I too had that wonderful sense of belonging when I first joined the APTA back in 1990 (yep, that long ago). It is interesting that the first thing you point out as a concrete benefit is for patients, not professionals. That's nice, but if only 20% of professionals are signed up, not that many patients are going to know the website even exists. On the whole, the APTA has been severely lacking in promoting the profession on the whole to the general public. When I first graduated, those horrible bumper stickers "If its physical, it must be therapy!" were on way too many cars. Thanks to reporters like Gina Kolata from the NY Times who write disparaging articles on our profession and the truly embarrassing response from the APTA president at the time, the public really still doesn't know what we do. The peer reviewed research is available via many resources online and there are other professional journals out there which are also important that one doesn't get with an APTA membership. I will say, the APTA does a respectable job of staying up to date with reimbursement issues. That doesn't make membership worth my money, even though I am still licensed to practice in two US states. No, I didn't renew at some point around 2003…never missed it.

Dean Metz February 6, 2014 5:04 PM

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