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Technically Successful

Full and original article posted on PPS Impact Magazine

Physical therapists need to define success, then measure and report it.

Advances in technology are all around us. The evolution of telecommunications, computers, and medicine continues at an exponential pace. Medical technological advances in the past 20 years have brought radical change to surgery and postoperative care and have saved and prolonged lives. However, what about physical therapy? How does a profession rooted in the basic human connection of communication and personal contact benefit from the frenetic pace of technological change? Should it? Can it?

Measuring success is a complicated task. First it must be defined, then measured and repeated. Understanding the “outcome” of physical therapy is as varied as the patients we serve. Two patients with the same diagnosis could and will have varied paths to “success.” On one table is a patient with a total knee replacement with excellent motion—but continued complaints of pain and poor function. The next client has what would be considered poor motion but feels they are “doing great!” How will these patients fare in a “pay for performance” environment? How do we measure, report, and define their success or failure? Can success be defined? Can technology hold the key to an effective (i.e., cost effective/efficient) method of saying, “This patient had a good/great/bad outcome?” The response pain from surgery or injury as well the emotional, spiritual, and physical changes related to disease and recovery are too variable to neatly fit into a standardized set of questions.

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