Sticking with their physical therapy program through multiple visits could not only help lower back pain patients feel better, it could help reduce their Medicare costs, study findings suggest.

A study released recently by the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) suggests that lower back pain patients who adhere to a standard physical therapy regimen with multiple visits cost less in overall Medicare expenditures than do patients with fewer outpatient therapy sessions.

According to the findings, nine to 12 physical therapy visits resulted in an up to 32% Medicare cost reduction.

“These latest findings suggest that the intensity of physical therapy in terms of the number of visits, is inversely related to total Medicare spending,” says Erik Williams, executive director of APTQI, in a media release.

“This study is one more indicator that sticking with a physical therapy program can help patients ease the pain in their lower backs as well as their wallets. Those in charge of insurance design should be looking at ways to remove barriers to physical therapy and improve attendance, not the other way around.”

The independent analysis, conducted by health care research firm The Moran Company (TMC), assessed 38,260 Medicare patients.  All of the patients had a lower back pain diagnosis and an outpatient physical therapy visit in the year following that diagnosis. Approximately 22% of those patients had a single therapy visit.

The remaining patients averaged 9.1 therapy visits over the course of 8 weeks.  Patients with multiple visits incurred a 14% to 32% lower average total Medicare spending in the year following their diagnosis than patients with one therapy visit in the same timeframe.

The study also found that 94% of the patients who had more than one therapy visit spent an average of $625 for outpatient therapy services. That fee is reportedly lower than the typical cost of an MRI or other diagnostics that don’t resolve the condition, per the release.

To read an executive brief as well as the full analysis with additional references, visit APTQI.

[Source(s): Select Medical Corporation, PR Newswire]