Increased physical and occupational therapy leads to decreased hospital readmission for pneumonia patients, researchers report.
Pneumonia—inflammation in the lungs—is a leading cause of hospitalization and death in the United States, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to a third of patients hospitalized for pneumonia die within a year, while others remain weakened or unable to perform everyday tasks.
“We found that as therapy visits increased, the risk of hospital readmission or death decreased,” says Janet Freburger, a professor of physical therapy in the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences who led the cohort study of nearly 30,750 discharged patients with pneumonia or influenza-related conditions.
“In some ways, we weren’t surprised. Therapists understand the value and importance of mobility and appropriate discharge planning, so patients don’t have adverse outcomes that could lead to readmission. It was good to see the data support this,” Freburger says.
The patients, who were adults 18 years or older, were discharged from 12 acute care hospitals in Western Pennsylvania, all in the UPMC network. UPMC Health System data was used for the study.
“We already knew that as therapists we can enhance outcomes for patients, where patients actually thrive after staying with us and not just survive,” says Tracey Euloth, a physical therapist and a regional director of therapy services across the UPMC system.
The research team hopes this study and other related studies will help those who advocate for appropriate therapy dosing in hospital settings.
“There currently isn’t a clinical practice guideline for therapy dosage for pneumonia patients in hospitals,” says Aileen Chou, a graduate student researcher in physical therapy and a coauthor of the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“With this new research, I hope that hospitals can be more confident in how they allocate therapy resources to maximize the patients’ potential,” Chou says.
“Seeing a rehabilitation provider and promoting mobility in the acute care setting is a very positive thing to do. If you are having mobility problems and haven’t seen a therapist, have your doctor make a referral,” Freburger says.
She adds that the team is working with UPMC Health System data to look at stroke patients, different patient populations, and acute care rehabilitation issues as well.
Source: University of Pittsburgh