Giving Thanks for Physical Therapy

One PT reflects on what makes her thankful

As this year draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on physical therapy trends that make me grateful. This is my short list. There are many more, and I encourage you to write in and share your feelings of gratitude as well. Please write to editor Jonathan Bassett at [email protected] and we will share them online.

First on my list is the increase in technology to enhance patient engagement. Several years ago I started using my patients’ iPhones to record their performance of home exercises. I provided direction and feedback while the video recorded my audio and the patients’ movements.

My patients loved it and I found that it increased compliance. Variations included using a smartphone to photograph patients engaged in treatment exercises and adding descriptive text. Patients found this to be very helpful as well.

At the APTA’s Private Practice Section (PPS) meeting in Las Vegas in November, I saw that many companies have taken personalized feedback even further by including database information such as the patient’s tests and history. Use of these technologies is burgeoning and it gives me great hope for the future of exercise adherence and improved outcomes.

Second on my 2016 gratitude list is the increase in direct access. Currently, direct access is legal in every state and many insurance companies do not require physician prescriptions for PT. Even 10 years ago, every patient had to see a physician before going to a physical therapist.

Interestingly, while on the flight to the PPS meeting, I sat next to an older woman who was a huge fan of physical therapy. She popped right up with the statement, “Oh, I never go to see my doctor so that I can see my therapist, I go directly to her.” Gotta love it!

Third, it’s becoming more widely known that we are cost savers. Many speakers at the PPS meeting mentioned this in their presentations. More research supports this conclusion and the media are beginning to disseminate these findings.

Fourth on the list is the genuine eagerness I am seeing in many newer graduates. There seems to be a hunger for new knowledge and a commitment to ravenous life-long learning. How can that not be wonderful for the future of our profession?

This group of new therapists is also very creative and entrepreneurial. One example is the very funny and informative PT Pintcast, which has over 8,000 listeners. Jimmy McKay is a new graduate (August 2016), but also a seasoned DJ, having worked with Howard Stern. He is a creative genius and his 30-minute webinars are extremely entertaining.

A second example was clearly demonstrated this year at PPS. The conference is delightful because it’s small and people are eager to meet each other. The opening line is usually “Where are you from?” and “What kind of practice do you have?” I was startled to hear from so many young, new PTs owning not one, not two, but 3-9 offices! This shows the confidence and entrepreneurial spirit of our newer grads. You rock!

Finally, this year clearly shows more outreach and collaboration among disciplines within the healthcare community. Physical therapists are working hard to serve on committees and panels for the future of healthcare delivery.

I am also seeing the benefit of taking our skills directly to the public. As I said in the McMillan lecture this year, “We need to show the world what we can do to help people age successfully.” My hope is that consumers will be motivated to see their physical therapist for an annual visit to be sure they are on track for successful aging, and that therapists can deliver a quick, head-to-toe assessment in the areas of physical function: strength, flexibility, endurance, posture and balance.

Great Seminars Online and Great Seminars and Books will soon launch a new screening tool and training package that will provide physical therapists the tools and training they need to excel in this area.

These are just five of the trends we see that are helping our profession grow, and I am so grateful! I am also grateful to our readership for your interest and support all these years. Thank you.