The rise of healthcare costs makes patient and physician’s decisions difficult at times of proceeding. Research is finding that trying physical therapy first as compared to advanced imaging with uncomplicated conditions can actually result with a significant reduction to patient healthcare costs.
Technology, without a doubt, has allowed for more effective and successful treatment. In some cases, however, the results of the imaging really did not change the course of treatment and patients would get better with physical therapy alone. Thus, the question arises, is imaging getting overused and not always necessary?
A statistic from one research study suggests, “After 1 year, the imaging-first approach can result in average costs over 3 times higher than a physical therapy-first approach [for low back pain].”
In short, the study found that patients, with uncomplicated symptoms, who tried physical therapy had reduced future re-injury to their low back pain and lower costs if they did not do imaging first.
I personally think most healthcare physicians and physical therapists are aware of this situation and are trained to help patients make educated decisions on their healthcare. As always, each patient’s situation is unique to that individual and one treatment plan varies greatly as compared to another. Advanced imaging definitely has its place and can be extremely beneficial, but there are incidents that the desired outcome was achieved and not having the imaging would not have made a difference, other than reducing a financial burden on the patient.