The Physical Therapy Industry (PTI) Outcome Workgroup — which comprises APTQI, APTA, and other PT sector leaders — has released a new report that aims to establish benchmarks of quality care in the field of physical therapy.
Results from the report, titled “Evaluation of Legacy Patient Reported Outcome Measures as Performance Measures in Rehabilitation,” also aim to provide physical therapists with key insights into the delivery of high-value care while also helping policymakers and payers better determine the value of PT services provided to millions of Americans every year.

In order to minimize variation and improve the quality of care provided to consumers, health plans, and employers, the work group evaluated how clinical outcomes could be used by the physical therapy community to enhance the value of care. More specifically, the report shows how benchmarking can improve value-based payment and outcomes reporting for providers and the broader healthcare industry.

“By engaging in this collaborative effort with physical therapy stakeholders representing all fifty states, our community has reached a major milestone in advancing high-quality care and value for our patients,” says Bridget Morehouse, senior vice president of contracts and pricing at ATI Physical Therapy and spokeswoman for the Workgroup, in a media release.

“To advance these goals, the PT community is proud to develop the new quality care benchmarks that will help underscore the tremendous value of physical therapy in helping Americans recover from injuries and illness, manage their pain, and regain their independence.”

The report is reportedly the largest, multi-practice analysis of open source, risk-adjusted clinical outcomes in the outpatient physical therapy industry, according to the release.

After carefully analyzing data that covers 375,000 patient episodes in all fifty states, the work group established national clinical outcomes benchmarks across the three most common areas in outpatient orthopedics (spine, shoulder, and knee care, which represent approximately 80 percent of orthopedic care), while using a risk-adjustment and stratification approach approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and adopted from the orthopedic community.

Other key findings include:

  • Clinically important improvements in Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) were observed across body regions over 12-14 visits.
  • Baseline patient factors for all data contributors explain a large portion of variation in PROs change within episodes.  Payer type, patient socio-demographic factors, and comorbidities at baseline all had strong effects on PRO changes over episodes of care. Differences in these baseline patient factors must be accounted for to ensure fair performance comparisons of physical therapists.
  • When reporting clinical outcomes as a measure of quality of care for outpatient physical therapy; risk adjustment should be included and include factors like BMI, patient age, comorbidities, smoking status, chronicity, pain, zip code of residency, payer type; as these factors influence the patient outcome and the utilization of physical therapy services.

“This report further supports the importance of PROs in clinical practice to evaluate the outcomes of our patients, and highlights the need for standardized data collection by physical therapists to include key patient characteristics that can be used to risk adjust these measures,” states APTA Public Affairs Director of Quality Heather Smith, PT, MPH.

“The benchmarks established in this report show physical therapy adds incredible value to both patient care and the broader healthcare system,” comments Nikesh Patel, PT, Eexecutive director of the APTQI, the release continues.

“Based on the outcomes of this analysis, we urge payers to reflect the value of PT in future insurance design and reduce barriers to PT treatment.”

The volunteer work group of industry stakeholders was formed in August 2015 to create a collective voice for the physical therapy profession to evaluate how clinical outcomes could be used to improve quality of care, minimize variation, and establish value-based payment and outcomes reporting for consumers, health plans, employers and the healthcare industry.

The work group consisted of industry stakeholders from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI), WebPT, Select Medical, BMS Practice Solutions, Intermountain Health Care, PT Northwest, ATI Physical Therapy and US Physical Therapy.

The group evaluated the ability of patient reported outcomes (PROS) as performance measures and created national benchmarks, where possible, for use in outpatient physical therapist practice.

The group contracted with the Center for Effectiveness Research in Orthopaedics (CERortho) to develop risk-adjusted performance measure algorithms for physical therapists using legacy patient-reported outcome (PROs) measures and patient-level information.

[Source: Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation]