Trends and Predictors of Primary Care Physician Referral to Physical Therapy in the United States, 2003-2014

Authors: Janet Freburger, PT, PhD | Samannaaz Khoja, PT, PhD | Timothy Carey, MD, MPH

Topics: Allied Health, Integration and Collaboration, Primary Care

Research Center: Carolina Health Workforce Research Center

August 1, 2017

New healthcare delivery and payment models demand that primary care physicians (PCPs) deliver coordinated, integrated, team-based care to promote population health. Physical therapists (PTs) are part of this team-based care for the treatment of musculoskeletal, neurological, and other conditions seen in primary care. Limited evidence exists on the extent to which PCPs engage PTs in patient care.

This policy brief outlines PCP referrals to PT, compares PCP referrals to other physicians, and identifies factors associated with referrals to PT. Findings include: 1) PCP referral to PT has declined while other physicians increase; 2) the possibility of under or over-referral to PT; and 3) age and physician characteristics reason as factors associated with PCP referral to PT.

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