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Stroke Rehabilitation is the Poster Child for the Need for Collaborative Care

APTA CSM 2015 Recap: Anne Shumway-Cook Lecture: Transforming Physical Therapy Practice for Healthcare Reform

Speaker: Pamela Duncan, PhD

Interdisciplinary teams and patient-centered care are key to the future of healthcare, and physical therapists attending this keynote of the Neurology track at APTA CSM 2015 in Indianapolis were encouraged to embrace this change. Bemoaning the lag time from research to clinical practice, Pam Duncan suggested that researchers find ways to work with interdisciplinary teams of biomechantical engineers and even private companies to bring innovation to patients faster. She started with the inspiring example of Carol Richards who received the Order of Canada for her work with the interdisciplinary team on the Stroke Network Canada, aimed at decreasing the impact of stroke across Canada.

Source @mdaware on Twitter

Source @mdaware on Twitter

Duncan then told a story to explain her passion for changing post-acute stroke care, involving a personal experience that changed the course of her career. Duncan’s mother suffered a stroke and while Duncan was trying to provide comfort in her mother’s last days, a traveling physical therapist arrived in the hospital room with a goal of getting her mother to get her mother to stand, which was apparently the clinical protocol she was assigned to do. Duncan protested and later spoke to the owner of the physical therapy company that had contracted to the hospital. He shrugged and asked her why she cared since Medicare would pay for the visit. Incensed at the waste of time and money but more furious at the way this care completely disregarded the patient’s best interests, Duncan put aside her plans for opening a private practice and focused research to improve post-acute care for stroke patients.

Translating Research to Evidence and the Humble Researcher

With the same vehemence, Duncan described how she believed that over 180 publications she’d made on the topic had done little to advance stroke care, largely due to the difficulty of translating clinical research into practice, and asked the researchers in the audience to change this by developing interdisciplinary teams, questioning all their assumptions, and thinking about the patient holistically, not just from their own discipline.

She asked researchers to be “humble researchers” referencing a column by the New York Times columnist David Brooks and not just set out to prove what they want to be true. Duncan used an example in her own research which disputed a popular belief on stroke recovery and showed that home-based exercise was more effective than treadmill-based. Duncan described herself as still having arrows in her back from that publication.

Best Practices for Stroke Recovery

After lighting a fire for the audience to think about things differently  by saying

“Take off your neuro-plasticity hat and think about patients holistically.”

Duncan continued with specific examples on how to change care. First was to understand the overall situation. 10-30% of stroke patients face permanent disability, something that is not always clear when they are released from hospital within 3-5 days of the incident. She gave an example of a patient who was discharged with care instructions and prescriptions yet when she got home she couldn’t follow them: she discovered the stroke had affected her ability to do basic calculations.

“If you asked if I had discharge instructions I would have said yes, I heard what the nurse said and I showed her I could inject my drugs, and my math deficit wasn’t diagnosed until I got home. I did the things I needed do to get discharged but wasn’t really able to cope.”

This is a clear example of how our current system fails us. It does not support the patient outside the clinic, and yet it’s so much less expensive and more comfortable for the patient to be released to home. Looking at the costs it’s clear that we need to improve home health options.

Post stroke care costs:

  • Acute inpatient care: $8,000
  • Skilled Nursing Facility: $41,000
  • Inpatient Rehab: $14,000
  • Home health: $6,000
  • Long-term care: $62,000

As Duncan put it, “Home health is a dirty word in Washington” yet this where the patient should be. She called stroke the poster child for the discontinuity of care in healthcare as 73% of post stroke readmissions are for other issues not related specifically to the heart. Duncan sees hope though, and called bundled payments the best thing to happen to stroke recovery as providers will have to collaborate across the care continuum.

She sees the benefits as:

  • Coordinated high quality care with seamless transitions
  • One primary metric for integrated care
  • Excellence based on outcomes

The message to physical therapists is that they are uniquely suited to these multi-disciplinary teams focused on patient outcomes. For patients, outcomes are measured by function. For CMS, value is measured by those functional outcomes divided by the cost and physical therapists can deliver on both.

This session was a great kick-off to the conference, which had an overall tone of embracing the changes coming in healthcare and the role of physical therapists in it. As a company providing continuity of care through digital treatment plans and connections with healthcare providers outside the clinic we were inspired to see so many people embracing this change.

Posted in: Aging, Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare transformation, Physical Therapy

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