I had to go to the dentist the other day to get my teeth cleaned. Yes it was that time of year again, my 6 month check up and cleaning. As I was leaving the office I went to the front desk and scheduled my appointment for the next 6 months not even thinking about it. I said good bye to the office staff and went on to work. As I was driving to my office I started thinking about how natural it was for me to schedule a follow up visit with my dentist. It’s drilled into our brains that maintenance on our mouth and teeth will prevent us from having problems in the future. Catching things early can prevent pain, decrease cost of care and keep our mouths healthy overall. If we have an issue in the mean time we just give the dentist a call. Can this work with physical therapy?
As the day went on I thought about it more and more. What if I started to set up a follow up check up after discharge for all of my patients? Six week, Six month and one year is what went through my mind. This is what is done at your PCP, dentist, surgeon, dermatologist and many more health care professionals. I know first hand what happens when patients are discharged from PT. 95% of patients stop there home program the day after they are done. 6 months to a year goes by and all of a sudden they have a problem again. Who do you think they call? Not me! They call their PCP or their surgeon. That is what people think of when dealing with pain, strains, weakness, functional deficits. Finally patients will come back to me after going through the chain to be treated. Look at the time and money it takes for someone to get to me.
Now, what if I discharge someone and set up a 6 week follow up to see how they are doing? Add certain things as well as make sure they are continuing to improve. Just doing this would prevent them from having to spend insurance money to go to their PCP only to tell them to come to me. This would also help patients be held accountable to what they should be doing knowing that they will have to come to see me in 6 weeks. This can train patients to think about follow up appointments. This can help patients understand the importance of their health and know who they can come to for their musculoskeletal needs. We as physical therapists have to do a much better job of keeping in contact with their patients, making trusting relationships and making sure people are getting everything that they can out of us. We are such a valuable asset that most people don’t know how to use. Take advantage of it!