If you have not yet viewed this video from Jack Bert, MD, from which the above screen shot was taken, please check it out now. Brace yourself. At the 8-minute mark, he discusses PT. He gets excited that a physician in SC was able to hire a chiropractor and “athletic trainers to do the PT” and bill for it, and ran 60% of the physical therapy business out of town.

Is there not some really big problem with this situation? Does this not border on breaking the law? The unrestricted medical license of physicians allows them to bill for whatever medical service they want. Thus, the athletic trainers can indirectly become physical therapists. As a licensed physical therapist in the state of SC, I wonder why I’m paying a fee for licensure, when the state could simultaneously allow non-licensed individuals to perform the service that I’m trained to provide. Why are consumers not being protected from this action?

In the comments on the site, which by now are littered with offended physical therapists, Jack Bert responds:

“Now that I have thought about this, the discussion on ancillary services really has nothing to do with physician arrogance or greed. It really has to do with what is best for the patient.”

I simply don’t buy it. How is having patients be treated by providers with less training and a different skill-set than PT’s (the athletic trainers) equate to something better for the patient. Yes, physicians do medicine. They do it well. Physical therapists, well we do rehab and do it well. Can’t we both exist together?

He goes on to suggest:

“For ancillary providers, such as physical therapists and chiropractors, to believe that they have the same training and ability to diagnose musculoskeletal pathology as a boarded orthopedist with a minimum of 5 years of post-medical school training, excluding a fellowship, is truly astounding.”

Perhaps Jack Bert is not aware of the body of research that suggests overall, that physicians are not adequately trained in musculoskeletal care either. In fact, I find it astounding that a general practitioner with little specific training on the subject finds themselves capable of diagnosing the specifics of an injured shoulder or neck. I fully agree that Jack Bert, a board certified, fellowship trained, orthopaedic surgeon has very capable musculoskeletal examination skills, but I also feel that his disregard of physical therapists to also have those skills offensive and reflective of an old-school physician mentality whose time has passed. There is research to support my claim. Physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts!

If this was truly about the patient, we would give the patients choices. We would empower them to choose their providers. We would act to reduce limited providers and wait times and work towards an equitable distribution of resources. There’s enough demand for everyone to play together. Comments like those of Jack Bert simply shed light on what these turf battles over physician-owned PT services and direct access restrictions are really about. It certainly isn’t about the patient.