What Should PT Compensation Be Based On?

It’s a question that physical therapy practice owners and physical therapists have struggled with for years. We all need to make a good living. But the increasing changes in healthcare financing and payments are forcing practice owners to take a long, hard look at how their physical therapists should be compensated.

Should it be by the hour, by patient visit, by salary, or the profitability of the practice? What is fair in this day and age?

After all, practice owners not only have a business to run, they have a practice to manage. And those two things must not be at odds with one another, especially with the coming changes in reimbursement.

Healthcare policy makers believe physical therapists should be compensated based on performance – patient outcomes. Without performance metrics as a measurement tool one could easily argue there is no incentive to provide optimal care to patients. As it stands now, good practitioners are paid the same as bad ones. Yet research shows paying healthcare providers for their treatment success better aligns clinical performance with patient goals than a traditional salary and pay-for-production methods.

Changes in compensation are coming in the next decade. The onus is on all of us to prepare for it. Which is why the American Physical Therapy Association created Vision 2020. One of its primary elements is that “Physical therapists accept the responsibility to practice autonomously and collaboratively in all practice environments to provide the best practice to the patient/client.” Whether PTs have ownership of a business or not, they still need to realize that they have some skin in the game. We must all embrace the idea that our patients are our practice and our practice is our business.

What are your thoughts on compensation and the APTA’s Vision 2020?