The Air Force Medical Operations Agency has recently instructed all Air Force military treatment facilities (MTF) to create direct access to physical therapy clinics for active-duty members. Previously, active-duty personnel would attend their local family practice, or flight and operational med clinics seeking help, and would then be referred out to a physical therapy clinic.
Musculoskeletal injuries, such as knee sprains, have been the number one reason that Airmen have been seeking care at MTFs for three of the past five years. Also, musculoskeletal injuries are the cause of more than 47 percent of limited-duty profiles in 2013.
“Air Force physical therapists are trained and credentialed to provide independent practice, to include medication prescription, order appropriate diagnostic imaging, place patients on profiles, and refer to other practitioners as appropriate,” stated Col. Joseph Rogers, a physical therapy consultant to the Air Force surgeon general.
Rogers also provided recent military research that showed “patients who received early physical therapy had lower healthcare costs, fewer medical appointments, and fewer invasive procedures than those with delayed physical therapy addressed more than 14 days after injury.”
Physical therapists can provide special treatment suited to each patient’s case with early access to care.
“Treatment may consist of manipulation, dry needling, exercise or modalities,” says Lt. Col. Brian Young, who is the assistant professor at U.S. Army-Baylor University doctor of physical program and Air Force physical therapy clinical operations chairman. “In today’s fiscally constrained environment and exponential increase in healthcare costs, early access to physical therapy is key for early return to duty and function after musculoskeletal injuries.”
Each MTF is scheduled to implement the changes from the policy release over the course of the next few months, according to Rogers.
“We expect each physical therapy clinic to establish appointment availability for acute injuries by the end of the summer.”
Active-duty personnel should reach out to their local MTF for further information.
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Source: United States Air Force