The Effect of a New Payment System on Physiotherapeutic Management of Patients With Low Back Pain in Primary Care

Jasper Bier, Arianne Verhagen, Raymond Ostelo, Alessandro Chiarotto, Bart Koes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To evaluate differences regarding the number of treatment sessions, costs, and outcomes (including relapses) between a regular payment-per-session system and the recently introduced product payment system in The Netherlands. Design: Prospective cohort study. Setting: Dutch physical therapy practices in primary care over a 2-year period. Participants: 16,103 patients with low back pain (LBP). Intervention: The new product payment system is compared with the regular payment-per-session system. Main Outcome Measures: Pain, disability, recovery, number of physical therapy sessions, therapy duration, costs (per episode), and LBP relapse. Results: At baseline, we found greater pain and disability scores associated with an increased risk profile in both payment systems. With regard to the payment systems, we found greater costs (€283.8 vs €210.8) and a greater percentage of relapse (4.5% vs 2.8%) for the product payment system compared with the payment-per-session system. Comparing the 2 payment systems within each risk strata, we found no significant differences, except for a decrease in pain in the medium-risk stratum. Concerning the therapy characteristics, we found that in the payment-per-session group, the therapy took 6 days longer for low-risk patients (median 27 vs 21 days) and 7 days shorter for high-risk patients (median 42 vs 49 days) compared with the product payment group. Moreover, the mean number of sessions in the payment-per-session group was greater for low-risk patients (5.4 vs 4.8 sessions) and lower for high-risk patients (7.7 vs 8.1 sessions) compared with the payment-per-session group. Finally, the costs were significantly greater in all strata of the product payment group compared with the payment-per-session group. Conclusions: The 2 payment systems are largely comparable regarding patient outcomes, therapy duration, and treatment sessions. Both the average cost per patient per LBP episode and the number of relapses in the product payment system are statistically significantly greater than in the payment-per-session system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-744
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number5
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Health insurance
  • Low back pain
  • Physical therapists
  • Prospective payment system
  • Rehabilitation

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