I recently was paging through the most recent issue of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Practice, a magazine published by the Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The magazine is a quarterly publication and contains peer reviewed studies, book reviews, and other information about the Orthopaedic Section. The publication also contains advertisements about new products and services that may be of interest to physical therapists.
I was a bit surprised by one particular advertisement by the Back Project Corporation. It is located on page 114, for those of you who are following along.
Here are the first few sentances from the ad:
- Can you afford not to make such an offer?
- Due to the unusual guarantee we offer patients (see sample ad below), patients think they will pay either $41.11 or zero for their 1st ATM2 session...
- Almost all leave $370, and refer their friends and family!
The sample ad shows a picture of a person in pain and states that the ATM2 system offers patients pain elimination while on the ATM2 followed by 50-100% pain relief after a 10 minute session. The ATM2 system is a big machine that the patient is strapped into. Apparently it does something to help decrease or abolish pain in the back, neck, and many other body parts.
I have a bit of a problem with the ad. It seems to be telling PTs to buy the system, make patients "think they will pay either $41.11 or zero," and most will end up paying a lot more for the treatment. Most likely, patients will be asked to come to the clinic for more treatments on the ATM2, and thus will pay more money for other treatments.
It seems odd that the APTA would allow this sort of advertising in their journal. Do we really want to give patients guarantees about pain relief and then try to get more money from them? I understand that times are tough, and companies with money who want to advertise in the journal should be able to buy ad space. But the APTA should monitor the content of the ads to ensure that they don't sound like we are trying to shake money out of patients' pockets.
In fairness, I don't know what the ATM2 System does or how it works, but most research about the treatment of orthopaedic problems like back pain and neck pain indicate that movement and exercise are the best course of care. Passive treatments like being strapped to a machine or rubbed with fancy shiny objects has been proven to be pretty ineffective.
Even if the ATM2 is the next greatest treatment for orthopaedic conditions, then we should just tell our patients so. This is what can help you. This what it costs. This is what to expect. We should not tell patients that treatment will cost $41.11 to reel them in, and then ultimately have them pay a lot more. If our treatment costs $370.00, then shouldn't we just tell that to the patients?
The ad just makes me feel like our profession is a little smarmy. I feel like the Orthopaedic Section did the profession a disservice by publishing an advertisement like the one by the Back Project Corporation.
If you are attending physical therapy, chiropractic care, or seeking care from any other healthcare provider, be wary of "money back guarantees." Every person and every condition is different, so no one can make a guarantee that you will live a pain free life.