Physical therapy and rehabilitation is an integral part of the workers’ compensation claims process. After an injury occurs, the way the patient/claimant is treated and the sooner they get back to work, depends a lot on the type of physical therapy and rehabilitation they receive.
Today’s post comes courtesy of Joe Paduda, who writes in his blog, Managed Care Matters, about a recent study by two academic institutions and a consulting client of his, in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published on January 18, 2013.
The study entitled, Differences Among Health Care Settings in Utilization and Type of Physical Rehabilitation Administered to Patients Receiving Workers’ Compensation for Musculoskeletal Disorders, found that there were significant differences in the type and duration of physical therapy provided to workers’ comp claimants.
The authors of the study looked at several variables in the billing data, such as location of service, duration of care, type of care, and other data points. And the data was adjusted for case-mix.
There are three key findings that the authors discovered:
- Corporate physical therapy centers billed for more visits and more units per episode than other practice settings.
- There was a “large difference in treatment utilization between geographic regions regardless of practice setting, diagnosis, body-part treated or surgical intervention”
- These corporate centers billed for “a lower proportion of physical agents indicating a greater use of those interventions supported by evidence-based guidelines (exercise and manual therapy) compared to other practice settings.”
The authors’ findings were consistent across all diagnoses, and controlled for surgical v. non-surgical cases.
As Joe points out, the second key finding comes as no surprise. He states that,
in many instances the care you receive depends more on where your provider was trained, the local standard of care, and the personal opinion of the treater than what has been scientifically proven to work.
He goes on to say that the third finding is “intriguing“.
When I wrote my earlier blog post, No Back Alleys Here, I listed a hospital in Chile, Hospital del Trabajador,(loosely translated – Hospital of Employee or Workman) that specializes in trauma, burns and rehabilitation. There may have been others as well that listed rehabilitation as part of their service offerings, but it seems much of what I have learned about the medical tourism industry has not included rehabilitation or physical therapy for that matter.
Perhaps one of the other ways medical tourism can be implemented into workers’ compensation, is by offering such services to workers’ comp carriers and employers, and perhaps it can be packaged the same way as other medical services are packaged, as all-inclusive services, covering cost of treatment, airfare and accommodations.
Focusing on such things as cosmetic surgery and other unavailable services are good for the industry at the present moment, but if it could branch out into the physical therapy and rehabilitation area, given the wide disparity of care available here in the US, the medical tourism industry could prove its worth to the workers’ compensation insurance carriers and their employer clients.
Being able to provide lower cost, efficient, and effective physical therapy and rehabilitation services to injured American workers’ compensation patient/claimants, in a relaxing and tranquil setting in either familiar cultural surroundings (if the patient is being treated in their country of origin), or in an environment that is free from the stress and strain of everyday life going to and from one’s home and a physical therapy facility, will be a boon to the medical tourism industry for years to come, not to mention the advantage of having working people travel to new places that will further understanding and better relations.
Something to think about.