GAO Report Examines PT Self-Referral

Alexandra E. Page, MD, and Elizabeth Fassbender

In June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report demonstrating that physicians who provide physical therapy (PT) services in their offices (self-referred) had much lower overall costs of PT during the period studied than those who refer patients to other providers (non–self-referred). The total number of self-referred PT services showed essentially no increase from 2004 to 2010, whereas non–self-referred services increased by 41 percent.

According to the report, the relationship between provider self-referral status and PT referral patterns was mixed and varied on the basis of referring provider specialty, Medicare beneficiary practice size, and geography, but the GAO “did not find a direct correlation between self-referral and billing per patient.”

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