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Physical Therapy Study – Great Workers Comp Loss Control


Physical Therapy Study – Early Use Means Lower Costs – WCRI

A recent physical therapy study proves what we have been saying for over 30+ years.

picture army physical therapy study clinic
Public Domain

Two of the most-read read articles on this website consist of articles on therapy in general.   I did not think about why they were popular.  Two covered physical therapists while the other covered occupational therapy.

Those three articles are:

The second article was my experience with a tough but great physical therapist when I crushed the bones in my left wrist (ouch!).   My recovery turned out excellent with full use of my left wrist – no surgery to place pins in my wrists.

The physical therapist started aggressively exercising my wrist right out of the cast.  My hand swelled the first few times then the therapy started to really help me with my injury.

My experience with therapy agrees totally with the recent WCRI study – early use of physical therapy saves costs.   One needs to remember that the physical therapist will be the medical provider the injured workers see the most for treatment.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Any adjuster or insurance carrier/TPA medical bill payer will tell you that other than prescriptions, physical therapists produce more bills than almost any provider.

man doing physical therapy study on the other man
Wikimedia Commons – Free stajler

I used to look at that aspect as a burden on making sure the therapist did not exceed the treating physician’s prescription or the maximum number of treatments allowed under the state Workers Comp rules.

I was keeping tabs on the Keys To Workers Comp Savings.  The savings provided by using physical therapy early was drowned out by the number of bills received from the therapist or clinic.

The bottom line – the number of billings were generated because therapists see the injured worker more often than any other medical provider.

The WCRI Massive Physical Therapy Study Skinny

The study can be found here for purchase.

Some of the highlights are:  my comments in italics 

  • Later timing of PT initiation is associated with longer TD duration. On average, the number of TD weeks per claim was 58 percent longer for those with PT initiated more than 30 days postinjury and 24 percent longer for those with PT starting 15 to 30 days postinjury, compared with claims with PT within 3 days postinjury.  You snooze on physical therapy – you lose – plain and simple.
  • Workers whose PT treatment started more than 30 days postinjury were 46 and 47 percent more likely to receive opioid prescriptions and MRI, respectively, compared with those who had PT treatment initiated within 3 days of injury. The differences between PT after 30 days postinjury and PT within 3 days postinjury were 29 percent for pain management injections and 89 percent for low back surgeries.   Physical therapy remains a much cheaper option if used timely – notice the 30-day cutoff time
  • The average payment for all medical services received during the first year of treatment was lower for workers with early PT compared with those with late PT. For example, the average medical cost per claim for workers who had PT more than 30 days postinjury was 24 percent higher than for those who had PT within 3 days postinjury.  You can pay physical therapy now or pay a big claim later.

This study is based on nearly 26,000 LBP-only claims with more than seven days of lost time from 27 states, with injuries from October 1, 2015, through March 31, 2017, and detailed medical transactions up through March 31, 2018.

The 27 states are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The two previous paragraphs mean the study was comprehensive.

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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