Differences among health care settings in utilization and type of physical rehabilitation administered to patients receiving workers' compensation for musculoskeletal disorders

J Occup Rehabil. 2013 Sep;23(3):347-60. doi: 10.1007/s10926-012-9412-y.


Introduction: There is a paucity of data describing the relationship between practice setting and the delivery of physical rehabilitation to injured workers.

Purpose: To determine differences in the number of visits, the number of treatment units, and the proportion of billing for physical agents over an episode of care between different practice settings' providing physical rehabilitation to patients receiving workers' compensation for a musculoskeletal problem.

Methods: A large administrative database was evaluated retrospectively. Practice settings were classified as physician office, corporate physical therapy clinic, occupational medicine clinic, hospital-based outpatient clinic, or private physical therapy practice.

Results: 70,306 subjects (72.7 % male; mean age = 44.6, SD = 11.8 years) were included in this study. Corporate physical therapy clinics had the highest mean values for total visits (13.1, SD = 12.7) and for total units (66.8, SD = 85.5), and the lowest mean values for proportion of physical agents during the episode of care (.22, SD = .18). Occupational medicine clinics had the lowest mean values for total visits (6.8, SD = 7.9) and for total units (30.4, SD = 36.5), and the highest mean value for proportion of physical agents during the episode of care (.41, SD = .22). When controlling for ICD-9-CM codes, body-part treated, surgical status, and geographical region there were small changes in effect size; however, the significance and directionality of differences between practice settings were not changed.

Conclusions: There were significant differences in billing for physical rehabilitation services between practice settings for patients receiving workers' compensation. Corporate physical therapy clinics billed for more total visits and total units over an episode of care than did other practice settings; however they also billed for a lower proportion of physical agents indicating a greater use of those interventions supported by evidence-based guidelines (exercise and manual therapy) compared to other practice settings.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / economics
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Occupational Diseases / economics
  • Occupational Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / economics*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Workers' Compensation / statistics & numerical data