Specialized physiotherapy provides many benefits for patients with Parkinson’s disease

Specialized ParkinsonNet physiotherapy leads to better care at lower costs. This is the conclusion of large-scale research conducted by the CZ healthcare insurance company and Radboudumc, who studied the medical claims declarations of over four thousand people with Parkinson's disease for a period of three years. The specialized physiotherapists needed fewer treatment sessions, and the patients sustained fewer complications. The healthcare costs were also significantly lower. The results of this new research will be published in The Lancet Neurology on 13 December.

There is increasing evidence that patients with Parkinson's disease benefit from allied health interventions, such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy. Parkinson-specific expertise is needed for optimal treatment of people with Parkinson's disease. Professionals who have been trained as part of the Dutch national ParkinsonNet have this expertise. Previous scientific research showed that the ParkinsonNet approach results in better care at lower costs. However, little was known about the added value of this approach in the long-term, and in day-to-day practice. Therefore, the healthcare insurer CZ initiated an analysis of their medical claims database including 4,381 patients who had data available for a period of 3 years.

This results show that patients who had been treated by a specialized physiotherapist sustained significantly fewer complications such as bone fractures, and were also less likely to be admitted to a hospital. There was also a tendency towards a lower mortality rate among those who had received the specialized treatment. The costs of this specialized physiotherapy were also significantly lower. On average, patients claimed almost € 400 less per year for specialized treatment than for regular treatment, and the total annual healthcare costs (including the medical specialist care) were on average € 530 lower per patient, because hospital admissions were avoided. In the Netherlands, this represents an estimated annual cost saving of over € 11 million.

Researcher Jan Ypinga from CZ is pleased with the results: "This is the first time that research into this subject has been carried out among such a large, representative patient group, and over several years. We now have insight into the impact of specialized treatment in everyday clinical practice. I'm glad that patients experienced fewer complications, such as a bone fracture after a fall, if they received specialized physiotherapy. This is really good news for people with Parkinson's disease. And it enables patients and professionals to make a conscious choice for high-quality care.'

Professor Bas Bloem from the Radboudumc mainly emphasizes the importance of specialized care for a complex disorder such as Parkinson's disease: "This analysis of medical claims data sheds new light on the added value of ParkinsonNet in everyday clinical practice. These new findings make it very clear that people with Parkinson's disease deserve to be treated by an expert with a deep understanding of this complex condition, and who is fully up-to-date on all the latest insights and treatment options."

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