Advancing Rehabilitation Practice Through Improved Specification of Interventions

Published:September 26, 2018DOI:


      Rehabilitation clinicians strive to provide cost-effective, patient-centered care that optimizes outcomes. A barrier to this ideal is the lack of a universal system for describing, or specifying, rehabilitation interventions. Current methods of description vary across disciplines and settings, creating barriers to collaboration, and tend to focus mostly on functional deficits and anticipated outcomes, obscuring connections between clinician behaviors and changes in functioning. The Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System (RTSS) is the result of more than a decade of effort by a multidisciplinary group of rehabilitation clinicians and researchers to develop a theory-based framework to specify rehabilitation interventions. The RTSS describes interventions for treatment components, which consist of a target (functional change brought about as a direct result of treatment), ingredients (actions taken by clinicians to change the target), and a hypothesized mechanism of action, as stated in a treatment theory. The RTSS makes explicit the connections between functional change and clinician behavior, and recognizes the role of patient effort in treatment implementation. In so doing, the RTSS supports clinicians’ efforts to work with their patients to set achievable goals, select appropriate treatments, adjust treatment plans as needed, encourage patient participation in the treatment process, communicate with team members, and translate research findings to clinical care. The RTSS may help both expert and novice clinicians articulate their clinical reasoning processes in ways that benefit treatment planning and clinical education, and may improve the design of clinical documentation systems, leading to more effective justification and reimbursement for services. Interested clinicians are invited to apply the RTSS in their local settings.


      List of abbreviations:

      EMR (electronic medical record), MoA (mechanism of action), PRE (progressive resistance exercise), RTSS (Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System)
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