APTA 2024 CSM #physicaltherapy Musings-Part I • Posts by EIM | Evidence In Motion Skip To Content

APTA 2024 CSM #physicaltherapy Musings-Part I

February 24, 2024 • Practice Leadership

In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose “ — the more things change, the more they stay the same…

This will be a two part series on APTA’s CSM with observations in general on the first and experiences in student recruiting in the second.

I attended CMS in Boston last week. I stopped counting how many I have gone to after 30! It is the leading professional meeting for physical therapists that combines academic and specialty content, meetings of all types, and a thriving exhibition hall. APTA has matured this annual gig into an absolute gem full of energy, opportunities, and endless conversations. Like most professional meetings, it is the “bump around” factor where you learn the most. Physical therapists are the leading profession in turning patients into friends and also colleagues and former classmates into lifelong family and CSM allows you to catch up with them in an atmosphere that you savor.

One benchmark that defines the #physicaltherapy state-of-the-art at any point and time is what dominates the exhibit hall. Over the years, it was filled with modalities or “machines” used for patient interventions. While many believe “research doesn’t drive practice, reimbursement does” the lack of modalities supports both perspectives. There was some, just not many-kind of like payment or evidence for them.

In recent years, there was a switch to software including EMR, technology inspired interventions, and exercise equipment often times with a twist. This year also had plenty of this plus lots of early AI but not overwhelming like the past. There was not a tremendous amount of capital equipment like in prior years; it is definitely on the down low and likely represents not only a shift to more functional training but quite possibly the lack of available capital to actually acquire any of it.

Publishers and CE companies were represented pretty consistently like prior years, a good thing and continued opportunities to pursue clinical excellence abound. It was great to see the many pelvic health and other specialty areas having an inviting presence for PTs and students to learn how to obtain competencies in areas that are growing for the right reasons: efficacy, evidence, and cost-effectiveness.

However, the noted change was the sheer dominance and the literal drowning out of all others by employers of physical therapists who see CSM and the approx 3,600 students (roughly 10% of the addressable market) as a target-rich environment. Once relegated to a literally separate room in the hall at CSM has now been replaced with interspersed, large-scale exhibits offering everything from a cappuccino to pickleball virtual reality and even a spot for telling fortunes (that would be us at Confluent and our attempt to get some conversations about the future with students). Yes, the current state of #physicaltherapy like all of healthcare is the scarcity of providers to support the growth in the profession and the massive demand for our services-especially PT First. We got what we had worked hard for over the years and wanted but unfortunately planned for it in terms of supply chain like Purell during the pandemic. In fairness, many outside of the traditional academic community had been predicting shortages for years.

Therein lies what might be the biggest enigma: physical therapist acquisition cost or the cost born by a company to add a PT. Recruiters, whose skills I have the utmost respect have been around for years, mostly by specialty companies but the ramp up in “talent acquisition” by employers is a relatively new phenomenon and companies range from 1 full-time recruiter to others with over 40 with geographic territories, incentive plans, and quotas. Additionally, you also have the significant time that PTs recruit PTs and the added cost of the number one technique for recruiting-taking students! (side note, this will be the subject of its own post later). For those tracking on this economic aspect, when you add all of those costs plus referral fees (aka “bribe fees”) or the often-used kick-back money paid to those who refer their friends to land a job, you have significant financial expenses to obtain a PT. The same PT who will transition from student to licensed and will wait for months to be credentialed and who medicare and many private insurance carriers value at approximately $80 per hour. How does it all add up?

All of the this suggests that the times have changed considerably in our profession and that certainly has some truth but it is uncanny how little has changed relative to what CSM has become for employers-an experimental lab and medium for figuring out what students want in their first job. The quest of trying to answer what makes students tick and how they can have the edge in hiring more PT’s is as old as Stonehenge. To that, we have to pay homage to the French critic Mr. Karr, it is more of the same. PT students aren’t looking for anything different than old dudes like me back in our glory days.

And we will dive deeply into it in part II.

Thoughts? Experiences at CSM top share?



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