From Basic to Best-in-Class: How to Upgrade Your PT Program

1 year ago

From Basic to Best-in-Class: How to Upgrade Your PT Program

By Linda Lane, President of Physical Therapy, One Call

When a workplace injury occurs, one of the most common types of treatment needed is physical therapy (PT). In fact, 62 percent of claims include outpatient physical medicine services. 1 And while PT is a fairly simple concept in theory, programs run the gamut from basic to best-in-class. The PT care your injured workers receive makes all the difference in terms of their return to work timeline and overall outcomes.

So how can you identify a run-of-the-mill program from one that will lead to the best possible outcomes for your injured workers while simultaneously generating cost savings for you?

The answer to this question lies in a quote by author Charles R. Swindoll, “The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.”

Here are five key details or components to keep an eye out for when seeking the best PT program for your injured workers:

Early Engagement

The first crucial component of a best-in-class PT program is an emphasis on early engagement. Introducing PT early in the recovery cycle creates a ripple effect – it reduces the need for surgery, reduces the likelihood of needing opioids to manage pain, and ultimately, gets injured workers back to work sooner. Data has shown that injured workers who start PT within three days of injury – compared to those who wait 30 days post-injury to start care – require 38 percent fewer PT visits to achieve successful outcomes. 2

The opposite holds true if you don’t engage early – injured workers are less likely to recover quickly, and ultimately, less likely to return to work. A Department of Labor report showed the likelihood of an injured worker returning to work after a six-month absence is only 50 percent. 3 That number drops to 25 percent following a one-year absence. 4

Beyond the physical component, engaging early restores an injured worker’s confidence in the process, enabling them to face their recovery journey head on.

Clinical Oversight

Tap into a program that includes the clinical coordination and oversight of a team of licensed physical and occupational therapists. By incorporating evidence-based guidelines, these professionals can establish expected therapy utilization and recovery times that are vital to an injured worker’s success.

Research shows that a lack of dedicated coordination results in a seven percent increase in deviation from clinical best practices, leading to injured workers receiving duplicative or unnecessary services. 5 However, by closely monitoring therapy utilization, and engaging clinically when needed, data has shown that unnecessary care can be reduced by an average of six visits per referral. 6

Data-Driven Approach

Seek data, and lots of it. Data creates actionable insights that result in lower costs for you and better outcomes for injured workers.

For example, data can lead to a more proactive approach to injured worker care by answering important questions such as: What happened? What could happen? and What should we do? Applied over multiple data points, data-driven programs can even pinpoint when an injured worker is at risk for poor recovery. It has been shown that incorporating this type of approach can lead to a significant reduction in the percentage of cases going over utilization benchmarks. 7

Data doesn’t lie, so make sure it is accessible and easily digestible so you can create the best recovery plans for your injured workers.

High-Quality Provider Network

Utilize a provider network that delivers both timely and individualized care. To help ensure timely care, partner with a network that is subjected to frequent, clinically-based, data-driven scoring on every provider.

To create an environment of individualized care, examine your network’s reach, asking yourself important questions, such as:

  • Does the network span across multiple specialties?
  • Does it span across geographical locations, including coverage in some of those most rural areas of the country?
  • Does it allow injured workers to choose from an array of settings, such as traditional brick and mortar clinics, on-site workplace clinics or telerehab?

It has been shown that a network that hits on all of these key elements can outperform ODG visit and duration guidelines on 100 percent of the top ICD10 codes. 8


Last but certainly not least, is patient-centricity – the most important element of any best-in-class PT program. By taking a holistic approach to care, you’re able to more completely understand an injured worker’s needs. Patient-centricity goes beyond the physical aspects of an injury and takes into consideration the emotional and mental factors. When putting together a care plan for an injured worker, ask questions such as:

  • Does the injured worker have guilt or fear following their injury?
  • Are they worried about their recovery timeline?
  • Are they experiencing financial hardships because they are no longer working?

By taking into consideration an injured worker’s emotional and mental wellbeing, you will help them establish and maintain a positive mindset. The phrase, A little positivity can go a long way, has never been more true. By being a champion of an injured worker’s holistic wellbeing, you can effectively create shorter return-to-work timelines, reduce claim costs, and ultimately, set them up for long-term success.  

Upgrading your PT program doesn’t have to be complicated when you keep the five key details discussed above top-of-mind. In doing so, you will demonstrate your level of commitment to your injured workers, thus empowering them to join you in their journey back to work AND LIFE.  


  1. Monnin-Browder, W. & Yang, R. (2020). CompScopeTM Medical Benchmarks for California (21st ed., pp. 81). Workers Compensation Research Institute.
  2. One Call national data. Reflects injured workers with shoulder injuries who completed physical therapy from Jan 2018-July 2019. Data excludes injured workers who received surgery prior to starting therapy.
  3. Return to Work Program. (n.d.). New York, New York. Retrieved from Return to Work Program:
  4. (n.d.). Returning Employees to Work After Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. Retrieved from
  5. Kerr, M. (2020, February 5). Expert Perspective: Plot a Clear Path to Recovery from the Start. Risk & Insurance.
  6. One Call national data.
  7. One Call national data.
  8. One Call national data.


This article was featured on WorkCompWire.

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