Rich Severin authors non-pharmacologic blood pressure management resolution adopted by the American Physical Therapy Association

Since 2014, Rich Severin 22 PhD RS, clinical assistant professor of physical therapy, has been a longstanding advocate for blood pressure management in PT practice.

Severin’s campaign moved an important step forward at the American Physical Therapy Association House of Delegates meeting in August, when the APTA adopted a resolution publicly supporting blood pressure management as part of the reimbursable scope of PT practice. This will allow state chapters to work with state policymakers to formalize this into law.

“Blood pressure control is a major problem in health care,” Severin said.

“Adding non-pharmacologic management of blood pressure disorders to the physical therapy scope of practice would be a new opportunity for PTs to improve the health of patients in their communities across settings and the continuum of care.”

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have recommended exercise and lifestyle changes to manage blood pressure, but there’s limited health care infrastructure for it, Severin said.

Physical therapists already incorporate exercise and lifestyle changes into their practice when they encounter patients with blood pressure disorders,  Adding it to the reimbursable scope of practice would mean patients with hypertension, for example, could see a physical therapist specifically for that problem without a physician referral.

“This improves patient access to care,” said Severin, who is also coordinator of the bariatric surgery rehabilitation program in the PT Faculty Practice Clinic.

As a PT resident, Severin began a campaign called “Vitals are Vitals” to promote cardiovascular screening by physical therapists. This led to presentations, published papers, videos and free educational resources for clinicians.

Last year, he began working with other members of the Illinois delegation to the APTA on the resolution formalizing blood pressure management into the scope of practice. After input from other state delegations, it passed almost unanimously.

Severin said he will continue to be involved, working with state policymakers and insurers to make this a reality within the next several years.