Thursday, January 12, 2012

There Is A Fork In The Road: Which Way Will You Go?

Let me start off my asking you a question.  Would you rather have back pain for 20 days or 50 days?  This may sound like a pretty simple question but our current health care system may push you towards the 50 days of pain rather than the shorter time frame.  I will separate these two groups into the “old approach” of thinking of treatment for musculoskeletal pain vs. the “new approach” to treat these symptoms.  The reason these words are in quotation marks is because the old approach is still very prominent in our health care system and very few partake in the new approach, especially here in California where direct access to a physical therapist is not allowed.

The old approach consists of you getting some sort of musculoskeletal pain.  You may not be able to get in to see a physician for up to 1 month.  You finally get to see the general physician and they send you to a specialist for the body region where you are having pain.  That specialist may send you for diagnostic testing such as X-Rays, or a MRI.  After this you follow up with the primary physician, the specialist or both.  At this time the decision for you to see a physical therapist is made.

In the new approach you meet with your physical therapist first, maybe also seeing your primary physician if your physical therapist thinks it’s warranted.  You get immediate treatment if it is appropriate and get referred to a specialist for further testing only if necessary.  

So why has the system not changed?  Why does physical therapy direct access get denied every time it goes through congress?  It is because the American Medical Association (AMA) has too much to lose in order to change to a new patient-centered system.  Physicians can lose out on “initial visits, follow-up visits, diagnostic testing, drug prescriptions... all of those equate to profit”1

If you like the idea of the new system you can write your local assembly member or donate to CAL-PT-PAC which is the only political action committee in California representing the profession of Physical Therapy.  You can donate HERE


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