Background: There is widespread interest in the evaluation of clinical strategies that safely reduce health-care costs. Elimination of inappropriate chest physiotherapy may represent one of those strategies.
Setting: An academic community hospital.
Methods: One-hundred one patients receiving chest physiotherapy were prospectively randomized to continue their chest physiotherapy or to inform their physicians that the order for the chest physiotherapy may have been inappropriate.
Results: Patients who were randomized to have their chest physiotherapy discontinued received 45% fewer chest physiotherapy treatments than control patients (p < 0.01). There was no increase in the mortality rate or length of hospital stay associated with the reduction in chest physiotherapy in carefully selected patients. The estimated cost savings would be $319,000, which is 50 times greater than the cost associated with the intervention.
Conclusion: Chest physiotherapy is frequently provided to patients for inappropriate indications. Reducing chest physiotherapy for these patients may significantly reduce respiratory therapy costs without increasing length of stay or mortality rates.