Within many physical therapy education programs, service learning is essential to student development and often complements the institutional priorities of serving the community. Service learning experiences vary from local, institution-hosted clinics to international experiences. Although the benefits of service learning to the students and community have been widely reported, it is also important to appreciate the cost to implement and support a service learning clinic within an academic department. The purpose of this study was to determine the cost of running a student-run free physical therapy clinic for estimated labor costs calculated as wage opportunity cost, quantify equipment and infrastructure cost per patient, estimate facility cost, and derive an estimated cost of care delivery per patient.
This retrospective study reviewed patient charts and clinic data from a student-run free clinic between January 2013 and December 2014. Both total outgoing cost and potential total cost were determined for this study. The total outgoing cost was determined by calculating equipment cost and cost of liability insurance. The potential total cost was determined by calculating volunteer hours, facility cost, and outgoing clinic costs.
In the 2-year study period, the clinic incurred a potential total cost of $68,405.40. However, the total outgoing cost of the clinic was $1,993.23 for 253 patient visits, which gives the clinic an average cost per visit of $7.64.
This study demonstrates the feasibility of a student-run, free physical therapy clinic through monetized gain for the community while enhancing students' skills. Furthermore, this study demonstrates a method to capture quantifiable monetary cost and benefit to program stakeholders and the community.