The Physical Therapy Outcomes Registry

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

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Data… I love it! As a former engineer who analyzed a lot of data in my pre-PT life, I find it fascinating to see how lots of tiny bits of information, combined together, can provide us with a more comprehensive picture.

The PT Outcomes Registry is one of APTA’s current projects to create a centralized database for outcome data. The idea is to track a set of prioritized outcome measures (currently there are nine outcomes, but this may expand) across the country. Clinicians perform the outcome assessment with the patient at the initial evaluation and again at discharge to measure the patient’s progress and then input the information into the computerized system. The PT Outcomes Registry then compiles the data from all practitioners so that practitioners can see how they measure against a benchmark of other providers.

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Timeline

The program is still in its pilot phase with 216 enrolled users (currently all practicing PTs, no PTAs) at 25 organizations. The most recent development is to include residents and fellows to compare their outcomes both during their residency/fellowship and again afterward to see how their outcomes change with time and experience. Later this year, APTA will collect feedback via user survey of pilot users regarding usability, pros/cons, glitches, and so forth. The team at APTA will then incorporate this feedback into the PT Outcomes Registry system.

The Registry will officially launch at the beginning of 2017, at which time any clinical site will be able to join. Clinicians will pay to enroll in the program, which will give them access to the aggregated data to see how their practice stacks up against national benchmarks. The service will not be limited to APTA members. Karen Chesbrough, the outcomes registry director, states that by the end of 2017 the APTA would love to have 1000 users, with the long-term goal of involving as many clinicians/sites as possible to get as accurate a picture of current practice as possible.

Which types of data are included?

The current outcomes include global measures, such as AM-PAC™ (Activity Measure for Post-Acute Care™), PROMIS (Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System), and OPTIMAL (Outpatient Physical Therapy Improvement in Movement Assessment Log). There are also regional/body-specific outcome measures such as NDI and Oswestry. Other data includes clinician profiles, patient demographics, and pain ratings; practitioners have the ability to enter data at treatment visits along with at initial evaluations, reassessment, and discharge. The types of outcomes included are vetted through an independent group of clinicians and academics (including one Canadian!) called the Scientific Advisory Panel.

The Scientific Advisory Panel is working in conjunction with the SIGs (Special Interest Groups) to develop prioritized objective data that the clinician would also collect as part of the PT Outcomes Registry based on the patient’s diagnosis. These modules may be specific to cervical pain or to infant torticollis, for example, and would include relevant ROM or other objective data.

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How does PT Outcomes Registry collect the data?

During the pilot program, enrollees are entering the data manually. Enrolled clinicians—or their clinic’s administrative support personnel—will log in to the system and select different tabs and boxes to enter the data, much like they do for electronic documentation of patient records.

However, manual data collection is time-consuming, so the current push within the project’s development is to build software “bridges” with all of the various EMR (electronic medical records) systems. These bridges would allow a computer program to connect the PT Outcomes Registry with each EMR system to pull the relevant pieces of data into the database. Each type of information (eg KOOS at initial eval, patient age, etc) will have an associated tag in the registry database, and each EMR will tag the same variable in their database so that the computer program will be able to match the data from the patient records to the PT Outcomes Registry. One EMR has already signed on to the project, and APTA is working to get more to participate. This will streamline the process significantly and will likely increase participation as less time and energy will be required for individual clinicians to enter the data by hand.

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What does this mean for clinicians?

Being a part of the PT Outcomes Registry would allow clinicians to see how their practice stacks up against others throughout the country. If a particular clinic performed very favorably within the Registry, it would be able to advertise this fact to patients and to different entities that may want to contract with the clinic. Participation in the PT Outcomes Registry would also enable a clinic to pinpoint how to improve poor performance in a particular area that they may not have previously recognized without the aggregate data.

The PT Outcomes Registry will provide objective information to support the assertion that PT restores function. We can then use this information to demonstrate our value to different organizations, whether that is with a hospital, an insurance organization, or to the general public.

The outcomes registry director also sees this information as eventually being linked to reimbursement. Linking outcomes to reimbursement would continue the trend to move away from fee-for-service and toward a value-based payment structure. A value-based payment structure rewards effective clinical practice, rather than performing treatment units with the highest reimbursement rates. This would be a win-win for evidence-based practitioners, as well as for their patients.

Eventually, with enough data, there is potential for the information to be used for research as well; the Outcomes Registry represents the exciting future of our profession!

PT Outcomes Registry Site | More info from the APTA

 

Physical Therapy Classification and Payment System: a Discussion with Lindsay Still

 

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

Interview with Lindsay Still, Senior Payment Specialist

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I talked with Lindsay Still, a Senior Payment Specialist, and she explained the current state of the PTCPS.  Read a summary of our interview below!

Overview

The Physical Therapy Classification and Payment System (PTCPS) is an ongoing initiative that was developed as an alternative to the current, fee-for-service codes—ones that easily fail to capture the true value of what PTs do—and instead particularly account for the complexity and skill of clinical expertise required for patients with more involved presentations. It also incorporates the use of standardized outcome measures. PTCPS would include a single CPT (Current Procedural Technology) code for the entire treatment session versus the assortment of 15-minute unit codes that we’re used to today.

The system has gone through multiple iterations in the past several years, and was developed by the APTA in collaboration with a specialty work group within the AMA (American Medical Association) involving members from the professional organizations of OTs, massage therapists, athletic trainers, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, osteopathic physicians, and representatives of CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).

Structure of the new coding system

Under the new system, there would be three new evaluation codes that puts a patient into an initial category of lower, moderate, or higher complexity. Certain documentation criteria (e.g. under patient history, presentation, or plan of care) would determine which of the three eval codes you would select. For example, the number of comorbidities for a given patient would play a role in the eval code selection. There would also be a single code for any re-eval visit.

As currently structured, the proposed PTCPS would also incorporate five treatment codes, based on the overall complexity of the patient’s presentation and treatments. These codes, much like our current CPT code for evals (97001 Physical Therapy Evaluation), would not have a set time frame or number of units associated with it. However, treatment billed under the lowest complexity code would likely be much shorter than a treatment session under the highest complexity code, and the reimbursements would reflect this fact.

Implementation

In 2014, pilot testing of the new system was performed with PTs using the new system to code/bill for hypothetical patients, as well as using the new system to code the treatments of actual patients previously coded with the existing system. This testing occurred in various care settings. Overall, the clinicians were very consistent in their ability to categorize patients with the new initial eval codes. However, for the intervention codes, the pilot clinicians were only able to consistently categorize those patients with the least complex and most complex presentations. There was significant disagreement between PTs in regards to cases that fell within the different “moderate” treatment categories.

The definitions and valuation of the proposed eval codes were reviewed and approved by the RUC (Relative Value Scale Update Committee) and will now require CMS approval. Lindsay is hopeful that CMS will accept the new eval codes, as they will be budget-neutral. In August of 2016, CMS will release the 2017 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule; this should include the new PT evaluation and reevaluation codes. The new codes will go live on January 1, 2017. PTs will have three brand-new CPT codes to replace the current 97001 Physical Therapy Evaluation. The APTA will provide training and support to clinicians during the time leading up to the release of the new eval codes.

Impediments to the impending treatment code change

The new treatment codes will require further review and refinement, given their inconsistency of use during the pilot testing. This will likely be an interactive process, and not without controversy from the perspective of payers (insurance companies). In the meantime, the RUC has requested a “backup plan” to address ten CPT codes commonly used by PTs which have been identified as “potentially misvalued codes,” most of which PTs probably use frequently:

  • 97032 attended electrical stimulation
  • 97035 ultrasound
  • 97110 therapeutic exercise
  • 97112 neuromuscular reeducation
  • 97113 aquatic therapy with therapeutic exercise
  • 97116 gait training
  • 97140 manual therapy
  • 97530 therapeutic activities
  • 97535 self care home management training
  • G0283 unattended electrical stimulation (non-wound)

These codes are flagged  because they represent a high reimbursement rate and have not been assessed since 1994.

As a result, the APTA is currently redirecting efforts to provide replacements to those 10 codes rather than waiting for the codes to be reevaluated for us. The new treatment codes the APTA envisions to replace them with would be procedure-based: you would still bill in 15-minute increments. However, they would be streamlined; there would be fewer codes, and the codes would reflect the types of treatment PTs currently perform in practice (as opposed to focusing on what treatments PTs may have historically performed).

Future of the proposed treatment codes

The more general patient- and value-based treatment codes initially envisioned by the APTA are still in the works, but Lindsay foresees a longer process before fruition: it will require all parties to agree on a coding system that accurately and cost-effectively describes the type of treatments that PTs perform for patients. This includes the third-party payers who generally prefer the current setup of treatment codes based on billable units. The current coding system is easy to monitor for abuse or overuse of treatments.

I asked Lindsay if she saw outcome measures as one way of giving insurance companies some power to track the value of treatments under the proposed system. While they wouldn’t be able to screen specific procedures in the same way that they are able to under the current system, they would be able to, for example, monitor whether the progress of a “low complexity” patient was lagging behind what would be expected given that patient’s presentation.

She agreed that this could work in theory, but felt that we still have a long way to go in terms of standardization of outcome data across the spectrum of patient presentation. This is one of the reasons the PT Outcomes Registry will be so important! These two issues truly are intertwined in the future of value-based billing for PT services.

For more information, visit: http://www.apta.org/PTCPS and check out the Timeline for payment reform.

Direct Access: Insight into Some of the Barriers and Current Initiatives

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

I met with Wanda Evans PT, MHS, CKTP (Senior Payment Specialist) and Elise Latawiec MPH, PT (Senior Specialist, Practice Management) who provided me with their insider understanding on this topic as well as directed me toward further resources.

Direct access physical therapy care means that a patient does not require a referral from a physician or other provider prior to a PT evaluation and/or treatment. All graduating Physical Therapists are required to have a DPT–a clinical doctorate–and, thus, they receive extensive training in the ability to recognize “red flags” and refer patients to the appropriate provider when it becomes apparent that the patient may be at risk for something more severe than musculoskeletal involvement.  Studies demonstrate that direct access decreases the time following an injury to the start of the patient’s PT care, reduces the number of visits of therapy needed and results in lower overall costs. Thus, PTs are not only appropriate for this role, but they can end up saving time, money, and patient suffering (as well as costs for the healthcare system overall).

Legislation

There are currently various types of direct access in all 50 states. Each state has jurisdiction over its own Practice Act, which is why there is some discrepancy from one state to another (state-by-state comparison). There are 18 states with unrestricted direct access—this includes Colorado! Some states require specific certification for a PT to provide direct access care, and others allow only an initial evaluation plus a set number of follow-up visits before the PT must contact the patient’s primary care provider. States with limitations in their practice act for direct access are fighting every day for legislative changes to eliminate these barriers; the APTA is aware of this and is actively assisting in these state-level legislative efforts.

However, the legal foundation is only the first step to getting patients the direct access care that we know would be beneficial. Common barriers to direct access that PTs reported in an APTA survey last year include reimbursement concerns, limitations in marketing, fear of alienating referral sources, restrictions by the PT’s employer, and lack of knowledge of state direct access laws.

Reimbursement                                      

Historically, third-party payers (ie insurance companies) have required a referral from a physician or other designated professional. Aside from Medicare/Medicaid and other federal programs like the VA or Armed Services (which have their own regulations on Direct Access), insurance policies vary by carrier and on a state-to-state basis. As the state legislation changes, the payers have been slowly adapting, with some payers more progressive than others in regards to reimbursement for direct access services. The APTA has been engaging with payers directly to eliminate the referral requirement at events such as the Insurance Forum, in comment letters, during in-person meetings, and in their day-to-day contacts. The APTA communicates this message to large employers who create their own insurance policies for their employees, as well, and are thus able to help employers set the terms of the insurance contract for their employees independently.

How can individual APTA members get involved on the reimbursement front? Each state chapter has a Reimbursement Chair.  The Chair’s responsibilities include learning as much as possible about trends with different payers in that state (and taking note if a lot of PTs have been reaching out with similar issues or complaints regarding the same payer) and assisting those therapists within their own state. The APTA nationally works in conjunction with the state chapters on payment/insurance issues and helps to connect states together when confronted with similar challenges. Patients and their advocates can also petition their Insurance Commissioner if they are inappropriately denied care or access to medically necessary services. The Insurance Commissioner advocates for consumers; s/he does not represent the insurance carrier.

Fear of alienating referral sources

Wanda and Elise described several studies in which direct access evidenced no negative impact on the physician-patient relationship. In fact, a key component of direct access is the necessity of PTs to refer patients to the appropriate provider when a patient’s symptoms and underlying pathologies are outside of our scope of practice. Given that PTs must make referrals back to other providers, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship amongst different healthcare practitioners.

Education

A lot of concern stems from a a lack of education on the part of employers, insurers and potential patients. PTs need to demonstrate their clinical excellence to, essentially, prove that we are worthy of this responsibility, as well as to continue to educate all stakeholders on the importance and benefit of getting PT before medication/surgery. The first step for every PT is to become educated on what your state’s practice act specifically says about direct access and understand any limitations that may be in effect.  Educating patients, employers, and other healthcare practitioners is the next step. The APTA has developed many resources detailing the benefits and safety of direct access available online (more info).

Resistance to Change or Pushing for Progress?

There are some PTs who are more comfortable in the traditional referral arrangement than with unrestricted direct access. They may not want the additional responsibility, or they may simply prefer to do what they have always done.  That is okay!  Nobody is looking to force them to become direct access providers.

However, if you are one of the PTs who cares about the transition toward direct access and autonomy as a practitioner, make sure you’re an active member of the APTA! This is essential to better educate yourself, your patients, and other healthcare providers and to develop a strong voice with your state chapter and insurance agencies.

For more information on the current APTA involvement, as well as additional resources, check out its Direct Access page.

APTA Tuesday: Interview with a Lobbyist

Learn more about the APTA and lobbying! Katie interviewed Michael Hurlbut, a lobbyist for the APTA.

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Michael Hurlbut, Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist

Michael’s Background

Michael Hurlbut worked for several years on Capital Hill before he came to us at the American Physical Therapy Association in 2009 as a full-time Congressional Affairs Specialist. He previously worked as a staff assistant/systems administrator for Representative Jerrold Nadler (New York’s 10th district which comprises NYC); he then worked for Representative Robert Ernest  Andrews (for New Jersey’s 1st district, including Camden, NJ) and as a legislative assistant and for Representative Louise Slaughter (New York’s 25th district). Michael has a background in sports medicine and was interested in healthcare and policy. So, when the job opened at the APTA, he felt it was a good fit for his interests and strengths.

Michael was kind enough to explain to me some of the logistics of what goes on in Washington and what it looks like on the ground. I appreciated this perspective; as a PT, this whole world is pretty foreign to me!

Some Definitions

Each congressman or congresswoman has a chief of staff and multiple staff members who listen to issues presented by either individual constituents or lobbyists that represent groups of citizens.  For example, the APTA would count as a group of constituents with similar interests. The staff team then updates their member of Congress on important issues and perspectives.

What does a lobbyist do?

The APTA currently employs three lobbyists, each of whom focuses on different issues within the field of physical therapy. Michael’s areas of specialty include post-acute care, self-referral, workers comp, and Veterans Affairs/armed services. He monitors everything relating to those issues–including bills that are being proposed, progress on relevant ongoing legislative actions, and upcoming meetings which will be held on issues pertaining to his areas of specialty (for example, the congressional committee on Veterans Affairs). In his day-to-day work, he performs research to better understand the issues, he finds data surrounding each of them, he attends hearings and talks to constituents, and he matches up each issue with the correct APTA staff member.

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Once he has all of his information, he prepares the APTA’s position on the topic. This could include creating a few talking points to be included in a conversation, or it could include a formal “Statement for the Record:” this is considered the formal stance of the APTA and must be approved by the APTA’s Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. He will set up meetings with members of the committee or other members of Congress to discuss the relevant issues.

Change in Legislation and Policy

Legislation can start in these committees and proceed out into the House or the Senate for a general vote if approved; legislation can also be proposed by the House or Senate Majority leader. Legislation with broad/bipartisan support in a committee may have a higher chance of being approved by Congress in general, but sometimes this is not the case.

Whether the bill starts in a committee or is proposed by the Majority Leader, Michael emphasizes that it is important to identify members of Congress who will be sympathetic to the issues that the APTA cares about. He notes that getting any bill through Congress is a slow process and it may take several congressional cycles to see any change. It is important to provide data, a convincing argument, and show a “grassroots” initiative–which, for us as PTs, would include individual practitioners and patients contacting our representatives and senators.  Change is typically incremental; as PTs, we can relate to that!  We are accustomed to slow, additive changes with a lot of our patients: even as patients make limited progress (or even have setbacks), we have to keep the bigger picture in mind and continue to work towards change.

Michael also points out that it is essential to recognize when it may be better to work directly with an agency (such as CMS for some of the Medicare/Medicaid issues).

How can we support legislative changes impacting our profession and our patients?

In addition to direct involvement with lawmakers (check in next week to read more about that!), we can support changes in legislation through continued APTA support with both membership dues and with donations to the PT-PAC (Physical Therapy Political Action Committee).katiepic3

PT-PAC pays for one of the Congressional Affairs Specialists (Michael or one of the other lobbyists) to attend the fundraising events for the re-election of members of Congress who have supported our initiatives in the past. Attending events is one of the most important ways to forge stronger contacts with members of Congress and their staff,  and it also increases interaction with other lobbyists who may support similar issues. APTA does not allocate PAC funds to individual candidates in hopes that they will support relevant issues. APTA member dues pay Michael’s and the other Congressional Affairs Specialists’ salaries, but the dues are not used for the PAC. So, when you pay your dues online to APTA, there’s a separate line item that asks you if you would like to donate to the PT-PAC.

The PT-PAC is among the top 10 political action committees of national health care organizations. If every APTA member donated $20, it would be the #1 healthcare PAC–that’s even bigger than the orthopedic surgeons’ organization!

If you are interested in further information or would like to donate to PT-PAC, click here.

Blogger: Katie Baratta

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My name is Katie Baratta, and I just graduated from Regis University’s School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn so much about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of posts about my experiences here at the Association.

Check in next Tuesday to learn more!

APTA Tuesday: Meet Katie Baratta

Meet Katie Baratta, new Regis DPT graduate! Katie participated in an American Physical Therapy Association internship in Washington, D.C. during her final year at Regis.  Check in every Tuesday this summer to hear about her experience and to learn more about the legislation and politics behind all things physical therapy.

Name: Katherine “Katie” Baratta

Undergrad: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hometown: Boston/Belmont, MA

Fun Fact: I worked for 5 years as a transportation engineering consultant and am the second of six kids!

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Where did you do your last two clinicals?

CE III at St Joseph’s hospital in Denver, acute care, ICU, cardiac care, and CF floors.

CE IV at Denver VA primarily outpatient ortho with emphasis on manual therapy

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How did you get interested in advocacy and how has Regis furthered your interests?

I applied for the APTA internship for two reasons: one relating to learning to better serve patients I will serve as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the second pertaining to learning more about the role of Physical Therapy as a profession in the state in which I will practice.

In regards to my future patients, I foresee myself working a significant percentage of my caseload with patients who have considerable needs, vulnerabilities, and/or economic disadvantages—that is what motivates me to put 100% effort into what I’m doing. I know I’ll do everything within my power to provide the best care I possibly can for these patients. However, I also know that there are greater systemic forces at play which can limit any effort I make as an individual practitioner. In order to address these larger issues, I have a duty to advocate as a healthcare professional. Prior to the APTA internship, I didn’t possess a solid understanding of the ways the APTA, as an organization, interfaces with the government and how the political process can be a tool for large-scale change in the healthcare arena. This internship allowed me to observe and participate in this process. It gave me a more nuanced understanding of politics: I now both understand politics in terms of government and politics in terms of group and power dynamics and how these social factors relate to getting things accomplished. So now, as a new graduate, I can bring this understanding back to my individual patients as I push for large-scale changes in the realm of availability of care, funding, and specific physical therapy services.

The second reason I was interested in this internship had to do with the role of the APTA in Massachusetts. According to the APTA state rankings, my home state (and where I eventually see myself practicing) ranked last in APTA involvement in 2014. This is an area of opportunity for the profession. Massachusetts (and Boston) is a leader in many aspects of healthcare. I saw the APTA internship as preparation for increasing the presence of the APTA and the profession of physical therapy in Massachusetts.

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Where are you heading with your career?

My path thus far in life has been winding and full of surprises, and I am sure my future will be as well!

I tremendously enjoyed my work during CE IV at the VA. I found a group of people I connected well with—both the patient population and the rehab team, overall. It was my first true manual/outpatient rotation. By the end of it, I really felt I was starting to get the hang of how to integrate manual skills with tailored exercise prescription for a patient’s short- and long-term function.

I find the role of the nervous system in pain—particularly persistent pain—to be fascinating, and I think that it’s an area that we as DPTs can serve, push the envelope, and dig deeper into understanding.  I see the solution to be very intertwined with integrating exercise, mental and emotional health, and our toolbox of manual skills.

Beyond the practice setting, I envision myself tying in some of the skills I developed in my prior career. I have an extensive background in data analysis, grant writing, and drafting reports on alternatives analysis; essentially, I have experience in demonstrating the “value” of something to decision-makers (including those who provide funding).

One of PT’s biggest issues is lack of PR. Nobody understands or sees our value. Word of mouth is clearly some of the greatest PR, particularly when attracting new patients to an outpatient clinic. But, when there are larger factors at play beyond an individual patient’s choice—when it comes down to hospital policy or insurance policy—we need to speak in the language that those controlling funding allocation understand: numbers (particularly numbers with dollar signs in front of them!).

So, I see utilizing the skills I’ve developed in my past career into my current practice and will be able to demonstrate the value of physical therapy for both patient outcomes and overall costs. There’s a tremendous need for widespread change to healthcare and to PT access and I am excited to be a part of that change!

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Tune in next week to read Katie’s take on direct access barriers and initiatives to direct access.

Regis University hosts the Denver National Advocacy Dinner

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The second annual National Advocacy Dinner was hosted at Regis University this past Wednesday, April 13, 2016. These dinners are going to be held all over the country between April 13th and May 4th, and are a great way to learn the top legislative issues affecting the PT profession. Furthermore, it’s a great (and easy) way to find out more ways that YOU can make a difference in furthering the profession. In case you missed the event at Regis and were wondering what topics we covered, read on for the recap!

In terms of national legislature, the Federal update was presented by Regis’s own Ira Gorman:

  1. Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015 (“Repeal of the Medicare Cap”)

This bill would eliminate the cap on therapy services for those patients with Medicare. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this idea, as PTs, we only get $1960/year for therapy services. But wait—that’s shared with Speech Language Pathology Therapists too! This would help patients with complex cases (ie. TBI, CVA, hip fractures/replacements, etc.) get more of the services they really need. Check this bill out: HR 775/ S 539

  1. Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2015 (Loan Repayment)

THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS! In other words, this bill is all about student loan forgiveness. Currently, PTs are not a part of the National Health Service Core, and therefore cannot earn the loan forgiveness that many other health professionals can. With the passing of this bill, PTs would be granted access to the plan when they worked in rural and/or medically underserved areas. This could mean up to $30,000 in two years. As an extra benefit, it’s been shown that when health professionals work in these areas, they tend to lay down roots and stay. This helps to improve communities by keeping quality health care in the area. Check this bill out: HR 2342/ S 1426

  1. Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (Locum Tenes)

This bill was explained as a “technical fix,” in which PTs will have an easier time working with Medicare when a staff goes on a leave of absence (ie. Maternity, travel, etc.). Currently, clinics cannot bring temp PTs in unless they are Medicare certified at the specific clinic. Overall, this is a logistical nightmare when you only need a temp for a week or two. Check this bull out: HR 556/ S 313

 Gorman emphasized these three, but also hit on three more important bills. The Safe Play Act would allow PTs medical decision-making abilities in return-to-sport for youth athletes; this bill also promotes safety in youth athletics (with provisions about concussions, heat stroke, and sudden cardiac arrests). Next, the Medicare Opt Out bill is a physician bill that PTs joined in order to work with patients who may have their own private insurance and do not always want to follow through with sole Medicare payment. The bill would allow providers to avoid billing to Medicare and, instead, just bill the patient’s private insurance. The NIH Bill would help fund more rehabilitation research and create a larger focus on rehabilitation topics. Finally, the Telehealth bill would be one step closer for PTs to have a compact license (i.e. One license would allow a PT to practice in any state). Currently PT’s have to have a license for any state their patients may reside in. For example, if your clinic was near state boarders—say, in Colorado but close to Wyoming—you would have to have a license for both Colorado and Wyoming to treat the residents of Wyoming coming to your clinic. The telehealth component plays in when treating patients in other states via an alternative form of communication. (Check out these bills: HR 829/ S436, HR 1650/ S 1849, HR 1631/ S 800, and HR 2948 respectively)

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The other top speaker at the dinner was Colorado State Senator, Irene Aguilar, MD. She presented on a state issue regarding the insurance plan Colorado Care (Amendment 69). This measure will be on the ballot in November 2016 and will improve health insurance coverage in the state by creating a single-payer system. Colorado Care would be resident owned, non-governmental healthcare for any Colorado resident. Individuals could still purchase their own private insurance similar to supplemental Medicare, but would still pay for Colorado Care. Premiums would be collected from residents and employers based on income, effectively reducing costs through the elimination of third party administrative costs. However, this means a 7% tax for employers, a 3% tax for employees, and a combine 10% tax for the self employed in order to cover the budget, which is estimated at $25 billion. (Read more at http://coloradocareyes.co/ and http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/19/458688605/coloradans-will-put-single-payer-health-care-to-a-vote.)

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 Now what? Well, as an incoming student, current student, new grad, or current practitioner, it is important to start spreading awareness. The easiest way to do this is check out the APTA take action center (http://www.apta.org/TakeAction/). As a member of APTA, you get access to support any of the current issues with easy, pre-made letters to send to your Congressmen. This is helpful because research shows that Representatives want to know you’re knowledgeable about the bills you’re asking them to support. Heads up, though—they want: to have a constituent reason for your stance on the bill, the specific legislation cited, the bill number, the impact of the bill, and your full name and address.

If you’re looking for a little more action, join PT-PAC (political action committee) or donate money in their name for a more focused contribution. There’s even an app for that! Search APTA Action.

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Upcoming Advocacy Events:

June 8-11, 2016                 NEXT Conference (Nashville, TN)

Oct 27-29, 2016                 National Student Conclave (Miami, FL)

Feb 15-18, 2017                 Combine Sections Meeting (San Antonio, TX)

Spring 2017                           Federal Advocacy Forum (Washington, DC)

 Important Links:

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Keep an eye out for our student spotlight on Cindi Rauert, Regis DPT Class of 2017, who spearheaded this event as the SPT Delegate on the Student Assembly Board of Directors.

Blogger: Sarah Campbell, Class of 2017

Students take on CSM: Nolan Ripple on attending the national PT conference

Name: Nolan Ripple

Hometown: Peoria, AZ

Undergrad: University of Portland, OR

Fun Fact: Lacrosse player freshly converted to marathon enthusiast.

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Hello all!  My name is Nolan Ripple and I am a first year PT student.  About two weeks ago, the national PT conference for students and professionals—called the Combined Sections Meeting—was held in Anaheim, California.  During our three years at Regis, each one of us is expected to attend one national conference.   And—since this one was so close and we had class time off—many students chose to go, including myself.

Going into the experience as a first year student, I wasn’t expecting to receive much more than the credit of actually going and checking it off the list.  However, I can say that despite being relatively new in PT school, CSM was a positive experience both professionally and personally.  First, imagine sun, the beach, good food (In N Out included!), time off of a grueling second semester, and a bunch of classmates hanging out.  It was impossible not to have a good time…Needless to say, there was plenty of fun mixed into the week, and students enjoyed time at the beach, local restaurants and breweries, and mingling with the PT students and professionals from around the country.  It was invaluable to build that camaraderie amongst one another and within the PT community as a whole: it was refreshing to take a step back and see how other schools and clinics operate than the ones in the immediate Regis community.

 

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Anaheim, CA hike

In regards to the actual conference, I thought it was well organized and there were a plethora of talks to attend.  The lectures I attended ranged from topics of trunk stability and pelvic performance, running mechanics, concussion rehab in pediatrics, and even one concerning “burnout” in the PT profession.  It was super cool to engage in a number of topics, especially ones that are less emphasized in our own curriculum.  To put it bluntly, some speakers were better than others.  In that sense, I definitely had my favorite talks.  But, overall, being able to learn and engage in a variety of specialties was an extraordinary opportunity.

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With so much time off, I also got to see a lot of family.  I stayed with my grandparents and visited my aunt, uncle, and two cousins out there. The majority of students crammed into hotel rooms together, but as part of the Regis PT family, that is no weirder than a normal palpation lab.  Overall, this was an excellent opportunity to step back from the daily work of school, learn from professionals, and spend quality time with friends and peers.  A- experience (if it hadn’t rained the first day…then A+).