The new International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) speaks to the central decision physical therapists make in clinical practice:
What is wrong with the patient?
The ICF model seems to avoid the use of descriptors, or labels, that can be used to describe conditions related to human movement.
Fine with me.
The ICF Browser has descriptors of the following:
- Body Functions
- Body Structures
- Activity and Participation
- Environmental Factors
Using ICF, I could make a diagnosis on a patient with neck pain that would look something like this...
"Patient has difficulty Bending, Sitting and Pushing (all measured by OPTIMAL scale) due to the following:The descriptors used in ICF all have to do with measured findings.
...to be treated with the following...
- Stiff upper cervical sidebending (C0-C2).
- Weak deep cervical flexors (DCF) muscles (measured by flexor muscle endurance test).
- Decreased cervical rotation ROM, bilateral.
- Therapeutic Exercise (97110) for endurance of DCF muscles.
- Manual therapy (97140) for ROM, PROM, massage.
- Neuromuscular Reeducation (97112) to distinguish cervical sidebending from cervical rotation.
- Therapeutic Activities (97530) for Pushing with a stabilized cervical spine."
The descriptors for the above diagnosis are the following:
- Mobility of several joints (b7101)
- Endurance of isolated muscles (b7400)
- Ligaments and Fasciae of the Head and Neck (s7105)
- Bending (d4105)
- Sitting (d4103)
- Pushing (d4451)
I make this diagnosis about 5-6 times per week.
Most of my patients (60%) are Medicare beneficiaries with typical, routine presentations that require a typical, routine evaluation.
I don't try to 're-invent the wheel' for each new patient I see.
I do take measurements for each descriptor listed above.
I should be able to describe to anybody the patients I treat, the intervention I use and the outcomes I expect.
'Anybody' includes the following...
- the patient
- the physician
- my physical therapist and physical therapist assistant peers
- third party payers
- federal policymakers
- national and international health researchers
- rehabilitation professionals from related professions
- the man on the street (?)
"What concepts are necessary to structure clinical observations into a recognizable pattern that also suggests physical therapy intervention?"
Generally, I recommend the ICF model to any physical therapist who wants to do a good job of treating function.
Specifically, I recommend the ICF model to any private practice physical therapist who wants to generate Bulletproof Physical Therapy Notes and Charts for Medicare compliance purposes.