Entry-Point Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain Saves Money!

Researchers have found that Medicaid patients with low back pain (LBP) whose front-line treatment is provided by a physical therapist (PT) tend to generate lower costs over 1 year than patients who went to the emergency department or a physician first.

back-pain-300x189Seventy-Five Medicaid enrollees used a PT as their entry point—analysis showed that patients who began with physical therapy generated an average per-patient 1-year cost of $335, compared with $533 for primary care and $900 for patients who used the emergency department as an entry to care. The study’s authors include Julie Fritz, PT, PhD, FAPTA, and Anne Thackeray, PT, PhD.
Primary care was found to be the most common entry point for the patients, with 70.8% of the population beginning their LBP care in a family medicine, internal medicine, urgent care, or obstetrics/gynecology setting. Emergency Departments were the second most-used entry point (17.6%) followed by physical medicine and rehabilitation (3.9%), and physical therapy (3.3%). “Other settings”—orthopedic or neurosurgeon, chiropractic, pain medicine, etc.—were selected by 4.4%.
Overall, the average cost for treatment of LBP over the 1-year study period was $626—less than the $900 average for patients who entered via the Emergency Department, but close to double the average costs associated with patients who went to a physical therapist first ($335).

Reprinted from PT InMotion News; Friday, September 04, 2015

Andrew Vertson