Friday, October 24, 2014

PT as Part of the Physical

This post is not on-topic for this blog. Well, not obviously on topic. But I want to write about this topic anyways because it's a big part of what I want from my schooling and how I think I can improve the healthcare system. Big stuff.

I have this hypothesis. The hypothesis is that if a consult with a physical therapist was a part of the regular physical then we could improve health outcomes over the long-term.

Right now, almost all PT is treatment. There is almost no component of screening or prevention. The stuff I write about strength training and physical activity for wellness are more prevention work than most PT's can do. 

Our national profession organization, the APTA, my professors and others in the field are all well aware of this limitation. And their is a desire to improve the situation. That's part of why the switch to doctorates and self-referral are important to the future of the profession.

This Canadian physical therapist elaborates nicely on the topic.

If, as a part of every physical, you had an expert who checked out your posture and your gait (the way you walk) then hopefully we can spot problems while they can still be prevented. This consult could also include talking about workplace ergonomics since that will have a huge impact on a person's body over time.

Preventing even a small percentage of low back pain cases would be huge. Low back pain is the most common cause of missed work and represents a huge drain on people's lives and the economy.

Physicals weren't called annual check-ups where I worked, when I worked for a PCP. How often you needed a full health review was based on age and specific health conditions - health 20-somethings were only expected to get a physical every five years. Part of the experiment and study needed to validate my hypothesis would be figuring out how often makes sense, both from a health standpoint and an economic standpoint.

I'm not certain that this kind of screening and prevention will pan out to work well. But it seems likely. So I want to find out.

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