Background Given the continually rising health-care costs, interventions of health-care providers should be cost-effective.
Purpose This review aimed to summarize current cost-effectiveness of physical therapy. Specific aims were a) to analyze cost-effectiveness of physical therapy only compared to usual care only, b) to analyze cost-effectiveness of physical therapy added to usual care compared to usual care only, and c) to specify in which health condition physical therapy only or physical therapy added to usual care was cost-effective.
Data sources We searched in Medline, CINAHL, PEDro and Cochrane Library; and manually in topic-related systematic reviews.
Study selection We included studies published between 1998 and 2014 that investigated cost - effectiveness of interventions carried out by physical therapists. The methodological quality was assessed with the Cochrane risk of bias assessment for intervention studies as well as with the Quality of Health Economic Analyses Scale.
Data extraction We extracted effectiveness and cost data for calculating incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICRs) and extracted the original authors' conclusions.
Data synthesis The 18 included studies presented low risk of bias and contained 8 comparisons of physical therapy only with usual care only; and 11 comparisons of physical therapy added to usual care with usual care only. Based on ICERs physical therapy only or added to usual care was cost-effective in 9 out of the 19 comparisons and in 10 comparisons according to the original authors' conclusion.
Conclusion Physical therapy only or added to usual care implies improved health in almost all studies. The cost-effectiveness of such interventions is demonstrated in half of the studies. This result might have been influenced by the fact that different definitions of the notion of “cost-effectiveness” exist.
- Received August 5, 2014.
- Accepted December 6, 2015.
- © 2015 American Physical Therapy Association