Efficiency in the Physical Therapy Clinic: Traditional vs Computerized Documentation




Barry, Alison L.

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Background and Purpose. Today's ever-growing demand on the clinician to provide quality care at an efficient pace is requiring those in the health care industry to reevaluate existing operating systems. Computerized documentation is a possible alternative currently under consideration. Unfortunately, limited research exists providing objective results of computer use for documentation, and the benefits and concerns of computerized documentation are mostly postulated. The purpose of this investigation was two-fold: 1) to determine whether efficiency in a physical therapy setting was increased by the use of computerized documentation and 2) to determine general perceptions of staff members who utilized computerized documentation. Traditional (hand-written) and computerized documentation were observed and timed in three different phases of the documentation process: actual time required to complete an initial evaluation, time required to complete notes of the initial evaluation, and time required to submit notes of the initial evaluation to the referring physician. Subjects. The subject population consisted of six licensed physical therapists in outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinics. Methods. The times of each stage were analyzed using unmatched t-tests comparing traditional vs. computerized documentation. Perceptions of staff members were analyzed via a questionnaire. Results. In comparing computer versus traditional documentation, there was no significant difference in the time it took to complete an initial knee or should» evaluation or to complete the initial note. However, there was a significant decrease in the length of time it took to submit the note to the physician when the computerized documentation was used. In addition, the staff members were either indifferent to or supportive of the use of computers in the physical therapy clinic. Discussion and Conclusion. The transition to computerized documentation and the questions that surround it are well supported in the literature. However, there is limited evidence of increased efficiency in a variety of settings. The results of this study suggest that efficiency can improve in areas of documentation with the use of computers and that attitudes are not negative towards their use. More important than an increase in efficiency or a decrease in cost, the literature states that outcome measures generated from computerized documentation use appear to provide a better measure of quality care than measures available with the use of traditional documentation.



physical therapy, clinics, medical records, documentation, data processing


Barry, A. L. (1998). Efficiency in the physical therapy clinic: Traditional vs computerized documentation (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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