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Patients With Parkinson Disease Missing Opportunities for Proactive Rehab

December 21, 2020

Of the little over a third of patients with Parkinson disease referred for speech language pathology, physical therapy, or occupational therapy rehabilitation services, most were referred to just one discipline, according to a study published online in Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. 

“Despite evidence supporting multidiscipline and proactive rehabilitation in Parkinson disease, the majority of referrals were made to a single service and may be reactions to falls or advancing disease,” researchers wrote. “Data suggest there may be missed opportunities for optimizing care through proactive rehabilitation interventions.”

The study included data for 5020 patients with Parkinson disease from four countries. Researchers were interested in how often patients were referred for speech language pathology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy services. 

Among participants, 35.3% were referred to rehab. Single-discipline referrals were most common, with a mere quarter of patients who were referred to rehab receiving multidisciplinary referrals, according to the study. 

The likelihood of rehabilitation referral increased with falls in the previous 6 months, advanced- and moderate-stage disease, older age, hospital admissions, and higher caregiver burden, the study found.

“Rehabilitation therapies are critical for optimizing quality-of-life and daily functions for individuals living with Parkinson disease,” researchers wrote. “Thus, understanding the patterns of and under what conditions physicians make rehabilitation referrals is important for optimizing care.” 

Jolynn Tumolo 


Roberts AC, Rafferty MR, Wu SS, et al. Patterns and predictors of referrals to allied health services for individuals with Parkinson's disease: A Parkinson's foundation (PF) QII study [published online ahead of print, 2020 Dec 4]. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2020;S1353-8020(20)30876-2. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2020.11.024

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