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  • Joel J. Digris, MSPT, Owner Achieva Rehabilitation

I'm Sick of the Healthcare Environment...It's Broken! But, Physical Therapy Will Always Be A Great Choice!

### The Broken Healthcare Industry: A Look at Reimbursement and Value in Medical Treatments

In recent years, the healthcare industry has faced significant scrutiny due to the disparity between the costs of treatments and their actual value to patients. This issue is particularly evident in the reimbursement rates and charges for injections, medications, and orthotics compared to physical therapy. By examining these differences, we can better understand why the current system is flawed and how physical therapy offers a more sustainable and beneficial approach to healthcare.

#### The High Cost of Injections and Medications

Injections and medications are commonly used to manage pain and treat various conditions. However, their costs often far exceed their value. According to the American Journal of Managed Care, the average cost of a single corticosteroid injection can range from $100 to $300, and the price for more advanced injections, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, can exceed $1,000 per shot .

Despite these high costs, studies have shown that the long-term benefits of these injections are limited. For instance, a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that corticosteroid injections provided only short-term relief for osteoarthritis of the knee and were associated with cartilage loss over time .

#### The Burden of High-Priced Orthotics

Orthotics, which are used to correct biomechanical issues and alleviate pain, also present a significant cost burden. Custom orthotics can cost anywhere from $200 to $800, yet their effectiveness is often no greater than over-the-counter alternatives that are a fraction of the price . Furthermore, the reimbursement rates for orthotics vary widely, leading to inconsistent coverage for patients and out-of-pocket expenses that can be prohibitive.

#### Physical Therapy: A Cost-Effective and Life-Changing Solution

In contrast to injections and orthotics, physical therapy offers a more cost-effective and beneficial approach to treatment. Physical therapy focuses on addressing the root cause of pain and dysfunction through exercise, manual therapy, and patient education. The cost of physical therapy sessions ranges from $50 to $150 per visit, with an average course of treatment typically requiring 6-12 sessions .

Importantly, physical therapy is often reimbursed at a much lower rate compared to injections and medications. According to a 2020 report from the American Physical Therapy Association, the average reimbursement rate for physical therapy is approximately $70 per session . Despite this lower reimbursement, physical therapy has been shown to provide significant long-term benefits. For example, a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that physical therapy was more effective than corticosteroid injections in treating shoulder impingement syndrome over a one-year period .

#### The Long-Term Impact of Physical Therapy

Unlike injections, which can cause damage over time, physical therapy emphasizes sustainable, long-term improvements in function and pain management. By strengthening muscles, improving mobility, and teaching patients how to manage their conditions, physical therapy can prevent the need for more invasive and costly treatments. This holistic approach not only reduces healthcare costs but also enhances patients' quality of life.

#### Conclusion

The healthcare industry's current reimbursement structure favors high-cost, short-term treatments like injections and medications over more effective, long-term solutions like physical therapy. This disparity highlights the need for a shift in focus towards treatments that provide real value to patients. By investing in physical therapy, we can reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes, ultimately leading to a more effective and equitable healthcare system.

Physical therapy offers a powerful, life-changing alternative to the expensive and often short-lived benefits of injections and medications. It's time for the healthcare industry to recognize the true value of physical therapy and adjust reimbursement practices accordingly to prioritize patient health and well-being.



1. American Journal of Managed Care: Cost of Corticosteroid Injections

2. Average Costs of PRP Injections

3. Annals of Internal Medicine: Corticosteroid Injections and Cartilage Loss

4. Cost and Effectiveness of Custom Orthotics

5. Average Cost of Physical Therapy Sessions

6. American Physical Therapy Association: Reimbursement Rates for Physical Therapy

7. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy: Effectiveness of Physical Therapy vs. Corticosteroid Injections


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