While civilian health care policymakers and stakeholders in the US continue to debate whether physical therapists (PTs) should be included as primary care providers, the country’s military health systems have marched ahead with the concept. A new study adds to the evidence that the idea is working, both in terms of patient safety and reduced health care utilization.
Authors of the study, published in Military Medicine and first presented as a poster at the 2019 APTA Combined Sections Meeting, frame their research as an exploration of the potential for PTs to address the nationwide physician shortage by lowering costs and increasing access to care. They assert that the potential for more team-based, effective care could be at least partially realized if civilian PTs were treated like their military counterparts and included as primary care providers. It’s a position that APTA strongly supports in its strategic goals and is consistent with APTA’s own investigations into the PT’s role in primary care settings. In addition, in 2018 the association conducted a practice analysis aimed at determining the feasibility of primary care as a specialty area recognized by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties and the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education.