Study: More intense physical therapy improves resident outcomes, lengths of stay

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Physical therapy of a higher intensity results in better patient outcomes and shorter lengths of stay for some nursing home patients, according to a recently released study.

Researchers found that for all three types of conditions studied, residents provided with 1 to 1.5 hours of therapy a day had shorter lengths of stay than residents getting less than 1 hour per day over a seven-day period. Researchers studied nearly 5,000 patients with strokes, orthopedic and cardiovascular/pulmonary conditions in 70 different skilled-nursing facilities nationwide.

The study helps establish the minimal therapy required for optimal results at 1.75 hours per day for a 5-day model and 1.5 hours of therapy for a six-day therapy model, said the study's authors.

The findings offers caregivers and skilled-nursing providers the first ever guidelines on therapy utilization to improved patient outcomes in functional independence and reduced lengths of stay, the authors say, writing in the March issue of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Patients receiving therapy account for more than 70% of total skilled costs, according to the report.