What is it about?

This is the first study to compare patient outcomes and cost in the next year between patients who chose PT first compared to those who were referred to PT from traditional medical referral. • Patients who chose PT as their first point of access to care incurred $1543 < expense for back and neck care in the next year. • Results show that patients who chose PT first cost less for imaging, pharmacy, and physician visits compared to those who did not chose PT first while demonstrating similar decreases in pain and improvements in function. • There were no differences in age, sex, comorbidities, or diagnoses between groups.

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Why is it important?

This is the first study in the private sector to show that patients who accessed care via a “PT first” pathway cost less. This is continued evidence that low cost effective solutions should be explored for back and neck pain as the first line of care. It also shows that physical therapists can safely triage and manage patients with back and neck pain without medical referral or screening. This study is also the first from a large PT registry in the orthopaedic literature.


This work is exciting as we explore ways to improve healthcare access and provide better care for patients with orthopaedic complaints.

Charles Thigpen
ATI Physical Therapy

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Influence of Patient Choice of First Provider on Costs and Outcomes: Analysis From a Physical Therapy Patient Registry, Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, February 2018, Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT),
DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2018.7423.
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