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An outpatient is a patient who receives medical care without being admitted to a hospital. Outpatient appointments may include physical therapy, often called “PT” for short. Outpatient physical therapy consists of a series of visits to a clinic in a hospital or to a stand-alone facility separate from a hospital.
Physical therapy appointments are typically 30-60 minutes long and occur 1 to 5 days per week. The PT schedule is decided during the first visit, called the initial evaluation. The schedule may change over time based on patient needs.
Many factors are considered when deciding the frequency and duration of care. These include: the injury or condition, how the patient improves, the type of physical therapy treatments, the patient’s schedule and availability, insurance coverage, and costs of care.
Even for patients who had PT as an inpatient, outpatient PT may be different. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
The first PT appointment will focus on understanding needs and setting goals. Your physical therapist will:
Physical therapy is designed specifically for the patient. Your PT might be very different from what other patients are doing in the same clinic. Your plan might also change week to week.
In general, ongoing PT visits include:
It is important for patients and families to partner with their physical therapist to get the most out of PT.
Physical therapy is one of your greatest resources when it comes to movement and physical function. Consider your physical therapist your partner. You are working together toward the same goals — to help you move and feel better!
Reviewed: September 2019