To compare patient profiles and health care use for physician‐referred and self‐referred episodes of outpatient physical therapy ().
Five years (2003–2007) of private health insurance claims data, from a Midwest insurer, on beneficiaries aged 18–64.
Retrospective analyses of health care use of physician‐referred (=45,210) and self‐referred (=17,497) ambulatory episodes of care was conducted, adjusting for age, gender, diagnosis, case mix, and year.
Physical therapy episodes began with the physical therapist initial evaluation and ended on the last date of service before 60 days of no further visits. Episodes were classified as physician‐referred if the patient had a physician claim from a reasonable referral source in the 30 days before the start of .
The self‐referred group was slightly younger, but the two groups were very similar in regard to diagnosis and case mix. Self‐referred episodes had fewer visits (86 percent of physician‐referred) and lower allowable amounts ($0.87 for every $1.00), after covariate adjustment, but did not differ in related health care utilization after .
Health care use during episodes was lower for those who self‐referred, after adjusting for key variables, but did not differ after the episode.