Effectiveness of Early Physical Therapy

Patient Management

January 14, 2021

A physical therapist helping a patient with a stretch to improve recovery

For employees with lower back pain, physical therapy at the onset of injury can be a driving factor in early return to work.  A study from the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) examines timing of physical therapy initiation for patients with lower back only injuries. The study finds correlations between physical therapy onset, medical costs, and return to work outcomes.

Physical therapy (PT) is a valuable tool for injured workers with lower back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries to actively heal and manage pain. According to the WCRI study,  “the number of total disability weeks per claim was 58% longer for those with PT initiated more than 30 days post injury and 24% longer for those with PT starting 15 to 30 days post injury, compared with claims with PT within 3 days post injury.” An earlier start to physical therapy is also associated with a decrease in the average costs for all medical services received during the first year of treatment. As seen from the study, in order to achieve the best recovery outcomes, physical therapy must be paired with an effective, timely review of the injury.

CorVel’s early intervention model enables our physical therapy experts to review the initial evaluation, plan of care, and bi-weekly treatment summaries on a timely basis. Through a series of frequent touchpoints throughout the therapy process, CorVel provides a treatment plan tailored specifically to the injured worker and reassess treatment every six visits, rather than waiting until the end of a prescription. Moreover, by partnering with PeerWell, a patient-centered medical management platform designed for musculoskeletal health, CorVel’s case management team further engages injured workers through their recovery.

With the changing healthcare landscape, TelePT, or virtual physical therapy, is now on the rise and offered by many physical therapy providers. At CorVel, virtual physical therapy visits are available through our telehealth services, providing cost-effective convenience and eliminating geographic restrictions.  Rather than visit a traditional brick and mortar clinic, online consultations with licensed physical therapists are available to injured workers regardless of where they are located. These telehealth capabilities put injured workers on the path to care more quickly – resulting in better outcomes and reduced claims costs.

Continual patient management from the onset of injury provides CorVel complete visibility into the entire episode of care, reducing overutilization and facilitating faster return to work for injured employees.

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