Proposed SAFE Act Would Expand the Role of Falls Screening and Prevention by PTs and OTs

On March 11, 2024, a new bipartisan bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it easier for physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs) to screen and potentially treat patients at risk for falls. Known as the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly (SAFE) Act, the legislation would allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive a fall risk assessment from a PT or OT as part of their wellness benefit at no additional cost to the patient. The SAFE Act aims to not only reduce falls in older adults but also to lower the risk of opioid addiction that can occur after a fall.

According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 45 percent of Medicare beneficiaries (29.6 million patients) receive an annual wellness visit each year.1 The bill would require physicians to collect information on falls for the year preceding the visit and refer patients who have experienced a fall to a PT for a falls risk assessment and potentially additional physical therapy services as needed.

The SAFE Act is strongly supported by The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), which has reported that fall prevention physical therapy services are associated with a net cost benefit of approximately $2,100 per episode of care due to the hospital admissions and emergency department visits that are avoided.2

Assessing Fall Risk and Preventing Falls with MedBridge Pathways

MedBridge Pathways is our new provider-first digital MSK care platform, purpose-built to keep therapy at the forefront of care and help organizations deliver superior patient outcomes across the musculoskeletal care spectrum. By supplementing existing in-person programs with a variety of digital care pathways based on patient acuity, Pathways engages patients with therapy-driven care and delivers valuable data back into the clinician’s hands so they can deliver customized, high-quality care.

Our Fall Prevention Pathway allows clinicians to assess fall risk and assign targeted care programs. It includes:

  • Triage and assessment via questionnaire and computer vision movement technology.
  • Progressive, evidence-based exercises focused on low, medium, and high ability levels.
  • Engaging video, text, and interactive education to support patients throughout their rehab journey.
  • Gamification and data-driven progress tracking to motivate patients.
  • Periodic surveys and PROs to help measure progress, identify red flags, and manage progression.