Pumpkin Spice Physical Therapy

All this fall weather and pumpkin spice latte talk has me thinking about Starbucks.

In the first blog post earlier this month, I discussed direct access – an import pillar in the physical therapy profession. To expand, today’s blog post will include a great example of how beneficial direct access can truly be.

In the early 2000’s, a physician named Dr. Robert Mecklenburg, chief of medicine @ Virginia Mason Medical Center, sat down to determine how his hospital could lower its healthcare costs; a major insurance company (Aetna) was threatening to remove them from their network due to high cost for care.

Since Starbucks was represented by Aetna @ this time, Dr. Mecklenburg reached out to the benefits manager @ Starbucks to determine how he could make their health care more financially efficient. Starbucks determined the most common healthcare costs for their companies were low back pain and headaches, and therefore Dr. Mecklenburg analyzed the entire process of how back pain patients passed through the healthcare system. He determined the following:

“90 percent of what we did was no help at all,” says Mecklenburg. “Does an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, a neurosurgeon help for uncomplicated back pain? The evidence says no. Does an MRI help? No. As far as we could tell, the only thing the evidence showed [that] was worth anything was physical therapy.”

Naturally, Virginia Mason Medical Center changed their health care process so individuals with low back pain were seen first by a PT (a great example of direct access). This resulted in same-day treatments, reduced healthcare costs, and patient satisfaction through the roof!

In summary, go see your local ATPSM physical therapist, grab a pumpkin spice latte, and pray the Packers get it together!


PS: Below is a great visual of how direct access works can save resources!