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APTA Innovation Summit - Student Member Perspective


An shortened version of this article will appear in the June 2013 issue of ACCESS, OPTA's quarterly member magazine. This piece was written and submitted by University of Cincinnati DPT Student, Chris Wilson.




The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) just hosted a groundbreaking inaugural event, the Innovation Summit, in which therapists, physicians, health systems, and policy makers were brought together to discuss the current and future role of PT in integrated care models. While it’s estimated that over 1,400 professionals attended “virtually”, generating 1,099 tweets, only 150 were invited to Washington D.C., including myself! More precisely, I was one of only two PT students able to attend in person and I was the only PT student selected as one of the 17 innovators highlighted at the event. 


It was humbling to be included with some of the brightest and most innovative PT and healthcare minds in the country and I was honored to represent Ohio and the OPTA. Despite my student status, I felt incredibly welcomed, so much so that a group of therapists from Arizona invited me to dine with them and provided some informal mentoring over a nice bottle of wine!


While my model, thinkPT2, is still a work in progress, with the goal of opening this year, the other attendees have been involved with innovative models for years. One of the focuses of the Summit was the growing body of evidence supporting the value of early access to PT, whether in emergency rooms, hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing homes or any number of environments. A highlight was the collaborative efforts of Virginia Mason Medical Center, Aetna and Starbucks to promote direct access to therapy for acute episodes of low back pain. The results: wait times dropped from one month to one day, absenteeism dropped by 57% and physical and mental function increased by 15%, to name a few.  The success at Virginia Mason led to the model being embraced and expanded by Intel, Providence Health and another collaborative team in Oregon. Outcome data is still being collected, but the early reports are positive and support early access to physical therapy.


As valuable as the keynote address and panel discussions on the models described above, among others, were, they were just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Darin Trees, an acute care therapist from Texas, combined a tilt table and a Total Gym to create a prototype that became “MoveoXP”…a tilt table that doubles as a leg press. And he’s not done there; he is currently working with a hospital bed manufacturer to integrate exercise functionality into the bed design. Imagine that, a hospital bed that is also a tilt table and a leg press, with some other built-in functionality that I’m not at liberty to discuss! To think, I wouldn’t have met him without the Innovation Summit.


I also met two other innovators working separately on projects that seem designed to build on one another. Thomas Moriarity of East Cooper Medical Center left a career in outpatient to manage an acute care unit. He has since successfully implemented a program in which PT’s conduct a screen on patients with community acquired pneumonia aged 65 or older upon admission or the following day. The program was so successful it was expanded to patients with congestive heart failure aged 65 or older resulting in shorter hospital stays for both populations and increased PT efficiency despite the screens not being a billable procedure! 


Then there is Dr. Mary Stilphen of the Cleveland Clinic. Her model is in conjunction with another icon in PT, Dr. Alan Jette. The model is called “Six Clicks”. This quick screen allows therapists to quickly and objectively take a snapshot of the patient’s function to create a functional footprint. Six Clicks has been useful in not only discharge planning but in determining if a patient needs and is appropriate for physical therapy, thereby increasing appropriate utilization of PT’s in the acute care setting. Now imagine if you used Six Clicks in Thomas Moriarity’s model?


Finally, and one of my favorites has nothing to do with anything practical, but it speaks to the hidden value of attending professional conferences. Rather than go to my hotel room after the conference because I didn’t know anyone, I headed to the hotel bar and lounge and inserted myself into conversations. In doing so, I met Colleen Chancler a former Henry O. and Florence P. Kendall Practice Award Winner. I conversed with Jennifer Green-Wilson, a Director at the APTA, and while sharing drinks received encouragement and energy to pursue my model and continue pushing forward. Then I shared drinks with Phil Tygiel who has given Arizona the reputation of cowboy PTs. This is a man who has been practicing for 40 years and is still innovating; a man with boundless energy who quickly becomes friends with everyone in a room; a man who had Florence Kendall hang out at his house for a whole week and helped guide two states to direct access (these 2 states are 2 of only 17 with unlimited direct access).


These are the moments I will treasure, and I can only hope you have similar opportunities!



For more information, you can connect with Chris online


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