Not Stopping Your Physical Therapy Too Soon
Most physical therapists in an outpatient setting can relate to the fact that your caseload typically suffers after the New Year due to an exodus of unplanned patient discharges. Insurance deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses roll over with the start of a new year, making patients concerned about having to pay more than just their co-pay (if they have one) for their physical therapy.
This is an area of frequent frustration amongst my colleagues and myself. We are working in conjunction with our patient to reach goals and reduce pain (if there’s pain associated with their condition), and to discharge yourself before you’re ready can have some negative consequences.
1) Let Your PT Know
First of all, without letting your PT know ahead of time of your planned stopping of therapy, how can they give you a final home program so you can adequately manage your condition yourself? This is the very least that should be communicated with your therapist so they can work with you on the best way to manage at home.
2) Early Discharge
Secondly, although I know it’s easy to see the direct costs associated right in front of you, there’s an indirect cost that could be quite more severe when a patient discharges prior to being ready. If a condition isn’t ready to be finished with PT, that patient may suffer a regression when they attempt to return to all activities. This could lead to a re-injury, or even a new injury, that requires costly MD visits, potential needs for imaging, injections, meds, and possibly surgery. It may have all been avoided with continuing with just a few more PT visits to make sure the condition was safe to return to all activity.
3) Working Together
And lastly, a patient should consider the fact that we WANT to work with you to allow you to reach your goals, and that we are not naïve to financial factors. We will frequently space appointments apart, decreasing your amount of visits and at the same time seeing how you do with a transition towards self-management. Sometimes patients are surprised to see that they may not be ready to go on their own yet.
When considering whether or not to continue PT after the New Year, remember to think of the long-term ramifications. We too frequently see patients again down the road for the EXACT same issue after they discharged too quickly, and then we have to start at square one.
Have a safe and happy holidays!