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Physical Therapists, healthcare, musculosketal, pain


Physical therapists (PT’s) have a unique and important skill set in the evaluation of patients with musculoskeletal pain. Studies have shown that patients who see a PT first, have improved clinical outcomes and an overall lower cost per episode of care. PTs in primary care and emergency department (ED) roles pose no additional risk to patient safety. The United Kingdom and Australia were the first countries to utilize physiotherapists in the ED. The concept of utilizing PT’s to help triage patients through the ED is starting to spread through hospitals in the United States. A study conducted in 2014 found 23 hospital systems across the US utilized PT’s within the ED. Initial reports from the health systems utilizing PT’s in the ED have reported increased patient and provider satisfaction, decreased wait times and decreased admission rates. ED personnel have cited the improved workflow from having a PT as part of their team, a decrease in opioid prescription, and a decrease of unnecessary imaging. PT’s can spend a greater amount of time evaluating the patient, answering questions, and scheduling follow-up care which helps to free up the attending physician to care for other critical patients. Although the benefits of implementing PT’s within the ED seem obvious, logistically this can be hard to do, thus having the key department leaders discuss the new implementation process is key. It is equally important to select a qualified PT with post graduate experience in orthopedics and spine care to ensure the most successful outcome of the program. As health care systems transition to value based care models, the ability to improve quality, decrease cost and improve patient satisfaction through innovation is critical to the long-term success of health care organizations.

First Advisor

Jewel Shepherd

Research Area

Health Services Administration