Direct Access: How to Empower Patients and PTs


Louisiana is empowering patients and removing barriers to physical therapy with their recent passing of Senate Bill 291. This bill allows patients to have direct access to physical therapy. Traditionally, patients need to get a referral from a licensed doctor to be able to see a physical therapist. This bill is going to give patients more choices and conveniently accessible options.

Direct access, or self-referral, is the ability for patients to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without being referred by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner. This empowers patients to refer themselves to a physical therapist, saving time and money in an era of increasing healthcare costs.

Why Choose Direct Access?

An athlete holing her lower back in pain

Sometimes when we get injured, especially if it is a recurring injury, we already know the best person that can help us is a physical therapist.

Sometimes we mysteriously get injuries or start showing symptoms that don’t heal quickly, and we don’t know what they are. Those are times that you should go straight to your doctor. However, there are other times when you are pretty certain of what your injury is. It may even be a recurring injury that you already know the cause of.

In these instances, the best healthcare provider to initially see is a physical therapist. PTs will very quickly be able to determine what is wrong and give you the correct stretches, exercises, or routines to get your body feeling better.

With direct access, you are able to see PTs in private outpatient settings as well as therapists in large hospitals and major healthcare systems. Physical therapists can also provide therapy in a direct care setting such as home care, on sports fields, in school systems and more.

Physical therapist helping patient rehab with theraband

Direct access allows patients to seek treatment from physical therapists in private outpatients settings, as well as large hospitals, on sports fields, and even school systems.

Why Should Physical Therapists Care?

With increased healthcare regulations and decreasing reimbursements, physical therapists have had to rely on themselves more and more. Direct access empowers PTs to be able to generate their own business, helping to rehab patients.

Direct access helps PTs to develop relationships and work together with other healthcare providers. It also allows the PT to be completely responsible for all the clinical decisions related to the patients’ physical therapy.

Why Should Patients Care?

For patients, there are many benefits of having direct access to physical therapists. Firstly, it eliminates the need for unnecessary referrals which can be time-consuming and costly. It also gets rid of barriers to entry. If a patient wants to see a physical therapist, why should they have to go see another healthcare provider first?

Healthcare costs are increasing year after year. Many conditions can be evaluated and treated successfully without having expensive diagnostic or lab testing. Physical therapy is a lower cost, higher value healthcare service.

physical therapist helping patient do rehab with large ball

Physical therapists are more than qualified to be a patient’s first point of contact for an injury. Today’s physical therapists are doctoral-level healthcare professionals.

Physical therapists have doctoral-level healthcare professionals. This means that not only are they qualified to serve as the initial point of patient contact, they also know if you’re presenting health care needs that are outside of their expertise, and will refer you to your healthcare provider. Direct access empowers patients to have greater control of their healthcare decisions.

Not every state allows unrestricted direct access for patients, but since January 1, 2015, all states and the District of Columbia have some level of direct access to physical therapy. Make sure you check your state’s laws and regulations regarding levels of patient access to physical therapy services.

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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