Study provides rare look at patterns of use and spending for physical therapy

Research Activities, March 2012, No. 379

A new study of patterns of use and spending on adult physical therapy found that about three quarters of episodes were for musculoskeletal conditions, with an average number of visits per episode of 9.6, and average total payments from all sources (e.g., out-of-pocket, private insurance, etc.) of $130 per visit. Controlling for characteristics of the patient and setting of care, women had 1.4 more visits per episode, on average, than men, and a similar differential (1.7 visits) was found between those with high blood pressure and those without the condition. Those with fair or poor mental health also had 1.7 more visits per episode than those with better mental health.

After controlling for other characteristics, expenses per visit were about 27 percent higher for episodes treated primarily in hospital outpatient departments versus office settings. In addition, total payments per visit for episodes among non-elderly adults without private insurance were 20 to 33 percent lower than for episodes among those with private coverage. Expenses per visit were 12 percent lower for episodes associated with musculoskeletal conditions compared to episodes associated with other conditions (including stroke, Parkinson's disease, and traumatic brain injury).

The study was conducted by Steven R. Machlin, M.S., William W. Yu, M.A., and Marc W. Zodet, M.S., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) along with J. Chevan, P.T., Ph.D., M.P.H., O.C.S., of Springfield College. It was based on data on 1,377 episodes of physical therapy from AHRQ's Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, a national survey of health care utilization, costs, and sources of payment.

See "Determinants of utilization and expenditures for episodes of ambulatory physical therapy among adults," by Mr. Machlin, Dr. Chevan, Mr. Yu, and Mr. Zodet, in Physical Therapy 91, pp. 1018-1027, 2011. Reprints (Publication No. 11-R074) are available from the AHRQ Publications Online Store .

Page last reviewed March 2012
Internet Citation: Study provides rare look at patterns of use and spending for physical therapy: Research Activities, March 2012, No. 379. March 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.