The Future of Physical Therapy: Key Projections for 2023

Published on January 29th, 2023.

Believe it or not, the start of 2023 is just weeks away. In the time leading up to the new year, the field of physical therapy has seen its fair share of restrictions, setbacks, and operational shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the healthcare industry finally enters the post-pandemic era, many healthcare providers must adjust to new client expectations.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it's that preparation is the key to success. With the ever-evolving nature of the physical therapy profession, practitioners need to be aware of what's to come with the industry's future. Keep reading to learn more about the key projections for the future of physical therapy in 2023 — and what physical therapists can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Where Is the Future of Physical Therapy Headed?

The physical therapy industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. According to market research, the US occupational and physical therapy services market size is projected to grow from $50.26 billion in 2022 to a whopping $72.70 billion by 2029. Growth has persisted, despite a 13% market decline between 2019 and 2020 due to pandemic implications.

As the physical therapy market value growth bounces beyond pre-pandemic levels, so are the newfound physical therapy employment rates. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, PT employment is expected to grow by 17% through 2031. The industry is slated to add more than 40,000 new professionals in the coming years to join the current 238,800 US physical therapists.

Due to a myriad of societal and economic factors, the projected PT employment rate is considerably accelerated compared to other industries. On top of the post-pandemic rebound, strong employment growth is fueled by the growing prevalence of musculoskeletal disease and sports injury diagnoses, which have driven a higher demand for PT services. Accompanied by more favorable insurance reimbursement policies, the future of physical therapy is bright.

Our Key Projections for the Future of Physical Therapy

With the future of physical therapy seemingly holding impressive market growth, professionals may be wondering — where is the future of physical therapy headed for practice operations? With recent trends and growth in mind, here are our key projections for the future of physical therapy.

1. Technology Will Be the Key to Staying Competitive

Investing in your physical therapy practice's technology will enhance your clinic's value and help you streamline day-to-day operations. Technology is essential for automating time-consuming tasks, making treatment plans more efficient and effective, earning more patient referrals, and staying ahead of the competition.

Let's look at two technologies that will be the key to remaining a competitive practice in 2023.


Across the entire healthcare industry, the unprecedented growth of telehealth throughout COVID-19 was something we could have never imagined. Many therapists, however, questioned the power of telehealth treatment due to the one-on-one nature of physical therapy. While virtually delivering physical therapy may seem challenging, studies have shown that it can still be beneficial.

According to a recent study, 814 participants with varying conditions underwent video evaluation by a PT, followed by a course of treatment using a mobile app from February 2019 to December 2020. Results showed that many participants demonstrated decreased pain levels and increased physical function and concluded that PT telehealth definitely holds its benefits.

As the future of physical therapy progresses further into the post-pandemic era, many clinics have found that patients still request telehealth services when possible. The demand for telehealth PT services is especially prevalent in rural areas where in-person care is limited. To help stay ahead of the competition and accommodate all patient preferences, you may want to consider adding telehealth to your service offerings in 2023.

Treatment Gamification

Increasing amounts of musculoskeletal disease and sports injury diagnoses are a primary contributor to upcoming growth in the industry. These conditions are commonly found in the next generation of patients, including adolescents and young adults, who may need more motivation to engage in adequate therapy.

Enter Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and Augmented Reality (AR) setups for physical therapists to offer gamified treatment services that drive patient motivation. Gamified treatment is an interactive activity requiring patients to follow specific motions to complete a task, helping them improve mobility and providing PTs with a fun way to assess functional improvement.

2. There Will Be More of a Focus on PT Burnout

While notable upcoming growth in the future of physical therapy is a great thing, the accompanying spike in employee burnout is not. Factors including but not limited to pandemic-induced employee shortages, overwhelming client demands, and poor workplace culture are just some leading causes of PT burnout that practice owners must appropriately address (and eliminate) come 2023.

Burnout is generally defined as emotional or physical exhaustion paired with increased negative emotions for and mental distance from one's job. With high-stress stakes throughout 2021 and 2022, PT staff rapidly became overworked and underappreciated. Unfortunately, burnout isn't just detrimental to employee health — it can also impact the quality of patient services and care.

To combat burnout concerns in 2023, physical therapists must implement practices to support employee satisfaction and streamline daily workflow. One of the first places to start is with a practice's workplace culture and communication. Take the time to discuss the current workplace with staff, identify key contributors to burnout, and ideate stress-reducing solutions. Such strategies can include offering flexible employee scheduling and complimentary mental health services.

Likewise, practices must help to reduce the administrative tasks that can overwhelm PTs. From patient scheduling to billing, practice owners should consider investing in practice management software in 2023 to streamline and automate everyday tasks. Automation helps alleviate employee stress that leads to burnout and dedicates more time back to critical patient care.

The Bottom Line: What Is the Future of Physical Therapy?

There's no hiding the fact that the future of outpatient physical therapy and acute care alike are on a fast track for significant growth in the coming years. As your practice brings in more patients and hires new practitioners, it's never been more important to properly align your practice management with consistent growth strategies, patient-preferred services, and staff-enhancing technology.

Source: MW Therapy 

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