Close up of physical therapist working with a patient

We helped the US physical therapy sector to demonstrate its value

Our Work | Case Study

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The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents 100,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy across the United States.

The APTA wanted to show the value of physical therapy

The APTA wanted to establish and articulate the economic value of physical therapy in the United States. It asked us to conduct an independent study to calculate the economic benefit of physical therapy compared to alternative care or no treatment.

It also sought communication tools to support its advocacy efforts with stakeholders, including health policymakers, insurance payers and care providers.

We had previously undertaken similar work for the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

We drew on a wide range of evidence sources

We used a phased approach to establish the economic value of physical therapy.

In phase 1, we collaborated with APTA to develop expert working groups and conduct comprehensive literature research across more than 30 treatment conditions. We used robust criteria to identify the strength of the evidence base and selected a representative suite of conditions for economic modelling.

In phase 2, we developed economic models and intervention-based chapters that described treatment options and the results of the modelling. Expert working groups reviewed the models and provided input on additional interventions based on the strength of evidence from our literature review.

In phase 3, we worked with APTA to create various communication tools, including plain-language summaries, policy reports, videos for consumers and policymakers, and visual assets like infographics and social media tiles.

The report featured several findings:

  • Physical therapy provides value to Americans across a variety of conditions at all stages of life.
  • Physical therapy can benefit both individuals and the health care system.
  • Physical therapists can continue to innovate to further enhance the value they provide.

The report also calculated the net economic benefit of choosing physical therapy for eight conditions:

Diagram that outlines the eight benefits of physical therapy

The report is helping to influence public thinking

In September 2023, APTA released our report: The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States. APTA is using the report and accompanying communications materials to support its advocacy efforts. It has also launched a website, Value of PT.

The insights are helping to create engagement and momentum. As the President and CEO of APTA say in their foreword, “Do not just read this report – join us in sharing it and using it to its full potential to benefit the physical therapy profession and society for today and in the future.”

Our scalable approach allows for future versions of the report as more research evidence becomes available.

What you can learn from this project

A public communication campaign depends on a strong foundation of evidence, gathered through robust and authoritative research.

Economic modelling depends on having reliable data coupled with sophisticated analytical tools to get accurate outputs.

The numbers alone do not tell the full story – understanding the value of a sector requires speaking to people who are on the front line.