Following an injury, prolonged illness, or surgery, a period of physical rehabilitation that incorporates some combination of physical, occupational, and speech therapy is often necessary to help patients regain function and successfully resume normal activities of daily living. According to Marci Cancic, PT, MBA, Director of Therapy Services at UTMC, therapy is a conservative “first line of defense” that is not only effective in managing a wide range of conditions, but can also reduce the need for more invasive procedures such as pain injections or surgery.
However, with so many area facilities offering rehabilitation programs these days, it can be difficult for healthcare consumers to know where to turn for their own individualized treatment plan.
To help find the best fit in a therapy services provider among all the available options, ask these key questions:
Is the program outcome-focused?
Cancic explains that therapy today is evolving from a volume-based model to a value-based model. That simply means reimbursement is not based on the number of patients treated, but on the value patients receive from treatment—in other words, the quality of their outcomes. Up-to-date therapy providers will be on board with this trend. “The best aspect of the value-based approach is that it allows therapists to spend more time with patients. In fact, we spend more one-on-one time with patients than most other medical professionals. Because we establish such a strong relationship with our clients, we’re better able to advocate for them,” she explains.
Does the therapy team have extensive experience?
Be sure to verify not only that the therapists are highly experienced, but that they also have extensive experience in treating your particular condition or diagnosis. Don’t be afraid to ask how many cases like yours they actually treat in a given year. The UTMC therapy team, for example, treats a high number of patients with vestibular/dizziness problems and neurological conditions when compared with other clinics in the area.
Does the therapy team have advanced training?
A strong therapy team continually strives to achieve training beyond the base level so they can provide the most skilled and up-to-date care possible. At UTMC, between 35 and 40 percent of the outpatient therapists have achieved advanced levels of training, going above and beyond to better themselves using evidence-based practice in combination with clinical practice.
Cancic elaborates, “We currently have seven therapists who are board certified through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, four of which are Neurologic Certified Specialists. Therapists who earn this designation, which is held by fewer than 2,300 people in the US, are the most knowledgeable when it comes to helping patients with conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, ALS, multiple sclerosis, concussions, decreased balance, and vestibular issues.”
Neurologic Clinical Specialization demands, among other requirements, being knowledgeable of up-to-date research, 2,000 hours of direct patient care, and a rigorous examination. Furthermore, the four Neurological Physical Therapists at UTMC, including Cathy Hites, Tori Smith, Alison Matson, and Eman Jarouche, devote many hours each month participating in interdisciplinary clinics such as Dr. Lawrence Elmer’s interdisciplinary clinic for Parkinson’s disease and wheelchair clinic.
In addition to the four Neurological Physical Therapists, Outpatient Therapy Services at UTMC has two therapists certified as Sports Certified Specialists and one as an Orthopedic Certified Specialist. Each therapist works on a team, providing exceptional continuity of care.
Is the therapy facility conveniently accessible?
When dealing with functional limitations, reduced mobility, and/or balance issues, it’s essential to have convenient access to rehab services. Look for a facility that is conveniently located in your community and situated on a hospital campus or in an office building where valet services are available. Also, be sure to confirm ahead of time that the rehab facility accepts your insurance plan.
Cancic emphasizes that, contrary to popular belief, physical therapy does not necessarily demand a burdensome commitment on the patient’s part—and that the outcome is often well worth the modest time investment. “Patients are sometimes worried that they’ll have to give up months of their life, but in reality, therapy can often make a huge difference in a relatively short period of time. So don’t let that concern stand in the way of getting the therapy services you need,” she says.❦