Should a physical therapist be a primary care provider? I will answer with a confident “yes”. But do others agree? Sullivan et al publised a A Vision for Society_PT as Partners in the National Health Agenda in November 2011. The article talks about a “primary care model” for physical therapy. It states “Primary care provided by a physical therapist is NOT management of medical conditions; instead, it is a long-term, person-focused, comprehensive health management plan that includes annual visits to address the physical health needs of a person or a family.” It goes on to suggest that annual visits would include health promotion, disease mitigation, and age-related risk reduction.
This article also goes on to mention the need for PT’s to develop more standardized assessment and treatment techniques. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) recently sent a survey out to PT’s asking them to consider what evidence-based tests/measures should be included in 2 types of exams: an annual physical therapy visit, and an annual wellness visit. The process has started!
The Guide to Physical Therapy Practice states, “Physical therapists provide prevention services that forestall or prevent functional decline and the need for more intense care. Through timely and appropriate screening, examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention, physical therapists frequently reduce or eliminate the need for costlier forms of care and also may shorten or even eliminate institutional stays. Physical therapists also are involved in promoting health, wellness, and fitness initiatives, including education and service provision, that stimulate the public to engage in healthy behaviors.”
The ability of a PT to know when the needs of a patient are outside of the PT’s scope of practice and how to appropriately refer to other professionals will be key to the success of this campaign.