5 Ways for Orthopedic Practices to Use Athletic Trainers as Physician Extenders

Written by Laura Dyrda | October 11, 2010 | Print  |
Orthopedic and sports medicine practices are increasingly hiring athletic trainers as physician extenders to take on several roles within the practice. Athletic trainers are routinely employed in this setting to improve overall office productivity, patient outcomes and satisfaction as well as help move patients more effectively and efficiently through the appointment, evaluation and treatment process. By providing services to more patients in the same period of time, physicians are able to increase patient throughput and revenues.

As medical experts, who prevent, diagnose, treat and habilitate injuries, the athletic trainer has an extensive musculoskeletal background. Kathy I. Dieringer, EdD, ATC, co-owner and president of D&D Sports Med in Denton, Texas, and chair of the National Athletic Trainers' Association Clinical and Emerging Practices Athletic Trainers' Committee, discusses five different ways practices can most efficiently use athletic trainers as physician extenders. "Our goal is to return the patient to full function and to provide the physician with services that improve the productivity and overall quality of care," says Dr. Dieringer.

1. Patient histories and evaluations. The athletic trainer can conduct patient histories and injury assessments and communicate that information to the physician so that he or she already has the information upon entering the patient's room. "I think the advantage athletic trainers bring to the table is that we have a more advanced musculoskeletal background and that is valuable, especially in an orthopedic setting," says Dr. Dieringer. "Having athletic trainers conduct the histories and assessments means the physician can see a higher volume of patients by spending less time with each individual patient."

2. OR assistants. Athletic trainers who have earned the certified orthopedic technologist credential are being utilized as assistants to orthopedic surgeons during surgery. Again, athletic trainers bring their knowledge of the musculoskeletal system to the operating room and can help increase the physician's productivity and efficacy with increased patient loads.

3. Office work management.
As physician extenders, athletic trainers can manage the office paperwork, assist with coding and billing responsibilities, consult with patients and assist with overall practice management. "It's all about increasing efficiency for the physicians," says Dr. Dieringer.

4. DME management. Athletic trainers have a background in casting, splinting and durable medical equipment management. When a patient needs these services, the athletic trainer can perform them in liew of the physician and provide the patient with education on proper fitting and use. "The hands-on care will hopefully help to improve patient compliance and satisfaction," says Dr. Dieringer.

5. Rehabilitation education. With an expertise in rehabilitation, athletic trainers are trained to educate patients on post-surgical treatment plans. This includes appropriate post-operative care, on-site rehabilitation and development of home exercise programs. Having the athletic trainer on-site means patients stay at the practice for multiple steps of the so the patients are not referred to other facilities.

Learn more about the National Athletic Trainers' Association physician extenders program.

Learn more about D& D Sports Med.

Read more coverage on sports medicine practices:

- 24 Orthopedic Practices With Great Sports Medicine Programs


- 3 Tips for Communicating With Parents of Young Athletes


- 5 Tips for Building a Successful Sports Medicine Center

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