VA provides veterans with same-day physical therapy

VA provides veterans with same-day physical therapy

The Department of Veterans Affairs is improving care and outcomes for veterans experiencing musculoskeletal pain by embedding physical therapy (PT) into primary care. Veterans can receive same-day physical therapy in 194 VA facilities across the country because of the VA Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT), also known as Primary Care PT.

“When a veteran comes in with a musculoskeletal issue, they often go through a gauntlet of testing and referrals before accessing PT,” said Chris Rowedder, physical therapist at Des Moines VA, during a veteran service organization call with the VA. “Lack of timely access to high quality PT results in poor clinical outcomes, increased healthcare utilization and higher costs.

“PACT PT, or Primary Care PT, offers veterans direct access by embedding PT into the patient’s primary care team. This model has been proven to alleviate negative outcomes, improve PT care and reduce healthcare costs. Early PACT PT findings at VHA have shown improvements in access, reductions of unnecessary referrals and high veteran satisfaction.”

Besides offering same-day evaluation and treatment, PACT PT provides medical equipment same day as needed by veterans.

In fiscal year 2024, 37,617 veterans received treatment by PACT PT.

Rowedder shared that external research has shown that if physical therapists are able to get involved in the care early, it is correlated with 89% reduced probability of a veteran taking opioids. And early access to physical therapy reduces chronicity of symptoms.

Additionally, research shows that veterans consistently rate PACT PT highly in the following categories:

•        Ease and simplicity (98.3%)

•        Employee helpfulness (97%)

•        Satisfaction (97.2%)

•        Confidence and trust (95.3%)

Veterans can view testimonials from a PACT PT team and veterans here.

“Primary Care PT (PACT PT) demonstrates the local recognition of the benefit of getting care to the veteran as soon as possible,” said Dr. Evan Kelley, associate chief of rehab medicine at Manchester VA. “We have areas that we would really love to get that care out to. This past year we have been focusing a huge amount of emphasis on getting Primary Care PT, or PACT PT, into those rural and underserved veteran areas.

“Our ask here is that we really want to encourage veterans to inquire if their facilities have Primary Care Physical Therapy. Some veterans may not know they have it. They may go to a primary care visit and not know that literally within 10 paces away there may be a musculoskeletal expert or somebody who is very adept at helping people with any concern a veteran has with their mobility needs.”

Kelley advised veterans to:

·       Talk to their providers about Primary Care PT

·       Talk to their facility’s patient advocates to request Primary Care PT

·       Write to their facility’s leadership to ask for Primary Care PT

“If they don’t have PACT PT, we find that the veteran voice really matters,” Kelley said. “And when veterans speak to leadership within their VA medical centers, leadership really listens. If the veteran starts asking, ‘Why don’t you have PACT PT?’ and ‘When will you get PACT PT?’ Not only can veterans advocate, but other members of the care team can also advocate for those veterans. It’s a collective voice. It’s not just us coming out with the numbers and showing the benefits. It’s that patient experience. When that patient walks away feeling that they’ve been cared for, that they can trust their care team, and that they’re truly getting the best care everywhere and anywhere, that’s our mission. That’s what we do.”