I would like to talk about the cost of physical therapy at both the individual level and and globally for the health care system. In the USA we live in a country where health care cost are out of control and we are spending more at the individual level. Between 2000 and 2010 the average cost per person has increased from $4878 to $8402. Over that same time period health care spending increased from 13.8% to 17.9% of the gross domestic product (Link). Numbers like these as well as increasing health care premiums are the motivation for many of the healthcare reform acts that we are hearing about in Washington.
There are many articles in the literature that demonstrate physical therapy is cost-effective. First, a report called the Mitchell Study demonstrates that patients who see physical therapist as the first practitioner tend to have less expensive bouts of care and need less visits (Link). A study in Spine this past December demonstrates patients who receive early access to physical therapy for low back pain spent less health care dollars and needed less subsequent care as compared to people who received treatment later (Link). A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine has gotten a great deal of attention from popular press (Link). This article demonstrated that at 6 and 12 months there is no significant difference between people who had surgery versus physical therapy for a meniscus tear in the knee. This study is powerful given the risk involved with surgery, the difference in cost and the recovery time after surgery. I could go on and on with studies that show physical therapy is a great option for our health care dollars.
At the individual level, physical therapy is also a very good option. This is especially true as patients are increasingly responsible for higher deductibles. In our clinic we are seeing more and more patients who either have a very high deductible or are uninsured. If this is the case, doing unneeded imaging or elective surgeries will be very expensive for you. If finances are a concern, physical therapy may get you a better return for your money versus surgical or more invasive options. The other aspect to consider is that physical therapy has very few risks.
In our clinic we have affordable packages for people without insurance and cash packages. We go out of our way to make your care affordable for your own unique situation. The great thing about using your healthcare dollars for physical therapy is that you will be empowered with ways to manage your musculosketal problems in the future and strategies to avoid more invasive options.
Jon Hill, DPT, Licensed Physical Therapist with Siskiyou Physical Therapy