Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Purpose Occupational therapy (OT) has described its role within primary care and challenges to integrating OT into primary care practices. One barrier is the ambulatory care physician’s (ACP) understanding of what diagnoses may be associated with functional impairments that OTs can treat. We sought to describe ACP OT referral patterns.
Design Cross-Sectional Survey Design
Method Data from 2014-2015 NAMCS were compiled and analyzed to characterize ACP visits in which OT was referred. Patient demographics, insurance, history of new or old injury, diagnosis, recent inpatient admission, reason for referral, physician’s specialty area, provision of patient educational materials, and physician practice incentives were analyzed. Using SAS University Edition, data were analyzed using SURVEY weights and all hypothesis testing was performed with chi-square.
Results Referrals to OT were not significantly different based on demographics and insurance; except for patients with worker’s compensation insurance, unknown health insurance, recently discharged from the hospital, had a new or old injury, or received injury prevention information during the visit.
Conclusion These data reflect that there are no overt biases related to demographics (sex, race, age) or physician incentives, which influence referrals to OT. Therefore, interventions to minimize biases do not appear to be a priority. ACP currently utilizes OT for their patients who have musculoskeletal disorders, or history of injury and hospitalization more than other conditions as demonstrated by referring 71% of their patients for these conditions. Future research should focus on why ACP practices do not refer more patients within other diagnosis categories.