Evidence In Motion Faculty Member Presents on Award-Winning Research at February 2014 Combined Sections Meeting

Dr. John Childs Presents on Health Services Research at the 2014 APTA Conference

February 6, 2014 (Louisville, KY)

Evidence in Motion (EIM) faculty member Dr. John Childs, PT, PhD, MBA presented on award-winning research at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) on February 4, 2014 in his presentation, Health Services Research in the Physical Therapy Industry: Paving the Way Forward.

Dr. Childs, Dr. Julie Fritz, PT, PhD, ATC, and Dr. Jean Mitchell, PhD, presented recent health services research (HSR) that details how patients access health care practitioners and services for back pain and other health conditions, how much care costs, and what happens to patients as a result of that care in real-world circumstances. Although complimentary to clinical research, HSR has important implications on policymaking and has the ability to identify innovations in care delivery and pinpoint optimal practice and business strategies for the physical therapy profession.

“For example, it’s clear now from multiple studies across a variety of health systems and multiple insurance plans that early access to quality physical therapy for patients with back pain substantially reduces health care utilization and costs,” noted Dr. Childs. “When access to physical therapy is delayed, the use of expensive treatments such as MRIs, steroid injections, drugs, and surgery almost doubles.”

Dr. Mitchell was awarded a $300,000 research grant for her work in HSR in 2012, funding for which was made possible in part by EIM. The grant is being used to investigate the influence of physical therapy referral characteristics and practices on quality, cost effectiveness, and utilization. In particular, she is interested in determining whether differences exist in referral rates and utilization in settings where physicians have an ownership interest in physical therapy services versus when they do not. During the presentation, she reviewed her work in leading economics, health services research, and medical journals describing the effects of physician self-referral arrangements on utilization and costs of health services and effects of physician ownership of specialty hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers on frequency of use for inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures.

“Conflicts of interest in health care need to be minimized. A number of studies demonstrate excessive utilization of physical therapy services when physicians have ownership interest in the physical therapy services compared to when it’s delivered in settings that are independent from the physician’s interest,” said Dr. Mitchell. “The data is quite clear that eliminating loopholes in the law permitting physicians to refer patients to physical therapy services would substantially reduce health care costs and improve quality.”

To learn more about HSR or for additional information on the presentation made by Drs. Childs, Fritz, and Mitchell, please visit the CSM website.