Early PT Cuts Costs Nearly in Half, White Paper Says

Nancy Grover

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – “Injured workers who start therapy within three days of injury require 38 percent fewer physical therapy visits to achieve successful outcomes,” according to One Call. “However, if an injured worker starts conservative care more than 30 days post-injury, the time to discharge increases from less than three weeks to nearly six weeks.”

In a new white paper, the company says its data for injured workers in the Southeast with shoulder, low back and knee injuries between Jan. 2018 and July 2019 showed those who were treated within 1 – 3 days of injured had physical therapy costs that were nearly half those whose treatment commenced more than 30 days after injury. Specifically, they showed:

Body part PT Costs within 3 days PT costs after 30 days

  • Shoulder $700 $1,170
  • Low back $600 $1,030
  • Knee $650 $1,040

Citing shoulder injury data as an example, the report says these are “common and costly,” and affect specific categories in the workforce; including aging workers, those in physically demanding jobs and workers in the trucking industry. Workers with these injuries often progress to surgery when not treated promptly.

“On average, [shoulder] cases we manage within three days of injury complete therapy in 35 percent fewer visits than Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) indicate,” wrote Michelle Despres, VP, National Product Leader of Physical Therapy. “However, cases that begin treatment greater than 30 days from injury complete therapy an average of 13 percent below ODG benchmarks.”


In addition to cost savings, earlier treatment also increases the likelihood an injured worker will return to the workforce, Depres writes. She cites Department of Labor statistics showing that an injured worker who is out for six months is only 50 percent likely to return to work, and the number decreases to 25 percent after a one-year absence.

“When conservative treatment is indicated, not only can needless prolonged absences be avoided, but successful return-to-work outcomes, reductions in surgery and exceptional quality of care can be achieved when treatment begins as close to the injury date as possible,” she writes. “The most effective way to help injured workers achieve maximum functionality while reducing costs is through an early engagement approach … Applying this approach in a physical therapy setting, for example, helps the physical therapist build a rapid connection with the injured worker, leading to accurate assessment, decreased anxiety, and a positive mindset focused on recovery. Ultimately, this can drastically decrease the return-to-work timeline.”

Early medical treatment can save money on indemnity costs as well as indirect costs, such as replacing an absent worker, the white paper says. Those savings can be passed on from insurers to their clients “with a model that expedites care to injured workers.”

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