There are some physical therapy facts in 2021 that all health-care providers should be aware of when trying to improve their practice. The start of the new year is the perfect time to institute change but these changes should be based on facts and the current state of physical therapy. With the new year comes new rules, regulations, legislation, and trends that can impact your clinic and practice. It is important to stay up to date with these changes to avoid possible compliance issues and to set your clinic apart from the competition.

In this article, we will explore some physical therapy facts any clinician should know in 2021. 

Direct Marketing to Patients

In the United States, due to the increase of Hospital Owned or Physician-Owned Physical Therapy Services (HOPTS and POPTS respectively), it is now common practice for patients to skip getting a doctor referral and seek direct access to therapists. Because of this, it is crucial to market directly to potential patients and not just referral sources. It is estimated that 7% of Google searches each day are health-related questions and topics so health care providers need to embrace digital marketing because it is not going anywhere, anytime soon. A clinic’s social media, its website, and email marketing campaigns should all be sending a consistent message that aligns with the clinic’s vision and mission. 

Need for Physical Therapy Will Increase

Physical therapy offers a cost-effective treatment to manage short-term disabilities and prevent them from becoming full-blown chronic pain problems, as a way to prevent unnecessary surgeries and to speed the recovery time for musculoskeletal injuries. These reasons make it attractive for patients to invest in physical therapy treatments. Learning to manage pain is also important when the country is experiencing an opioid crisis. More than that, as more people begin to rely more on preventative medicine in the coming years, the physical therapy market is expected to grow. The physical therapy market has been growing at an average annual pace of 6.2% and will be worth over $45 billion by 2023. 

The Importance of Telehealth and Patient Engagement 

Telehealth technology has been shown to help bridge the patient care access gap and can help increase patient engagement. Telehealth allows patients to take a hands-on approach to manage their health, provides a way to give support outside of a traditional clinic setting and increased access to specialized care when managing chronic illness. Before instituting telehealth in your clinic, check out regulations and HIPAA compliance in your area. In 2020, Arizona, Georgia, and Rhode Island decided on legislation regarding the use of telehealth for PTs and Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth technologies. Currently, there are 16 states that have provisions for telehealth technologies. The need for patient engagement through technology will also continue to grow. AC Health is a patient engagement and adherence tool that has been proven to increase adherence by over 30%.

Physical Therapy to Manage Dementia 

In January of this year, a new study emerged showing the benefits of physical therapy for dementia patients. This study showed that regular exercise interventions helped to slow functional decline and helped to improve overall balance. This physical therapy fact is a major revelation as worldwide about 50 million people suffer from dementia and Alzheimers according to the World Health Organization. Those that have personal experience with this disease know how debilitating it can be for those suffering and the people around them. In this study, physical therapy was provided in the patient’s home versus at a clinic and any amount of physical therapy improved patients’ activities of daily living (ADL) by 15.2%, with the best results coming from six to thirteen visits. This is a major victory for physical therapy. 

Call for Direct Access Across States 

Direct access has been a hot issue in physical therapy for some time now and all states allow some form of direct access but are still limited in their capabilities. In 2020, Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, New York, Minnesota, and Mississippi voted on legislation regarding unrestricted direct access for patients. Direct access is important because patients don’t have to jump through hoops and wait for an appointment with their primary care physician in order to get treatment for their pain. It is also cost-effective because there is no need to first see a primary care physician and can help to avoid costly medications down the road. It is more cost-effective for patients and PTs to treat an injury before it gets worse and becomes a chronic condition. 

The Physical Therapy Cross-State Compact 

The physical therapy compact is an interstate agreement between participating states to allow physical therapists to work in a state other than their home state without going through the common process for licensure required in that state. This practice is to increase patient access to physical therapy services. There are currently 26 states included in this compact with several more to vote on it this year. States voting on legislation in 2020 included DC, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Vermont. California is currently not a compact state. Purchasing a compact privilege online only takes a few minutes, bypasses the need for mountains of paperwork and typically costs less than regular remote state licenses. 

It is important to understand these physical therapy facts in 2021 for PTs that want to stay up to date and improve on their practice. Having a plan of attack for all the issues mentioned above is a great way to stay ahead of the competition in a heavily saturated market. It is also a way to bring change into your practice and expand beyond the norm. For issues regarding telehealth, patient adherence, and patient engagement, AC Health is the right choice. AC Health has customized reminders to trigger positive habit formation, get better engagement, and improve recovery for patients. To get started with a free one-month trial, contact AC Health today.