Physiotherapists in the Emergency Department
Hospital staff are keen to improve patient flow through Emergency Departments. For patients with musculoskeletal and other minor trauma, being diagnosed and treated by a physiotherapist who works full time in the Emergency Department may be not just a viable way to reduce the waiting time; it may also come with other advantages.
A recent study from Adelaide analysed data from over 9000 patients with diagnoses suitable to be managed by physiotherapists. Among over 400 specific diagnoses, the more common conditions included closed limb fractures, non-traumatic spinal pain, and soft tissue conditions such as strains and sprains. Some of the patients were managed by the physiotherapists and others were managed by the usual medical staff in the Emergency Department.
Misdiagnoses and adverse events were identified by an Emergency Medicine consultant doctor reviewing re-presentations to the emergency department within 28 days, a review of consumer complaints, and incidents reported on the local safety reporting systems during the one-year study period. None of the patients managed by the physiotherapists were misdiagnosed and none experienced an adverse event.
The patients managed by the physiotherapy service had a significantly reduced length of stay (mean difference 83 minutes). The physiotherapists also requested fewer imaging studies than the patients with matched diagnoses managed by medical staff.
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Other studies supporting the valuable role of physiotherapists in the Emergency Department have been reviewed by experts from Adelaide and Melbourne. They argue that the value of physiotherapists in the Emergency Department is no longer disputed in the literature and in clinical practice. However, the diverse potential of Emergency Department physiotherapy has not been fully demonstrated in the published literature (Lefmann et al., J Physiother 62 (2016) 1-3; click here for the free full text)
> From: Sutton et al., J Physiother 61 (2016) 77-80. All rights reserved to All rights reserved to Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Australian Physiotherapy Association. Click here for the Pubmed summary.