Understanding Cluster Testing: Part 1


In the US, physical therapists are gaining increased autonomy by becoming direct access providers for medical care (by diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions without a medical referral). A recently published large, retrospective study assessed the effectiveness of this system and found that early access to a Physical Therapist led to fewer needed visits (86% of physician referred) and lower overall cost of treatment (87 cents for every America dollar). Despite the positive outcomes found in this study, it is vital that we continue to assess, critique and understand our diagnostic strengths as well as limitations. One way in which I believe we can improve outcomes is by looking for cluster diagnoses, or a combination of signs and symptoms which lead to a high likelihood for an individual having a disorder. These improve our mathematical accuracy for making a diagnosis which ultimately leads to more effective treatment and resolution of symptoms.
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