What is Direct Access?
Direct access to physcial therapy is your oppoortunity to be evaluated and treated by a licensed physical therapist without first seeing your physician for a prescription. If payment is approved by your insurance company, direct access is your opportunity to save time and money, thereby expediting your treatment, relief, and recovery...Direct Access is described in depth by the American Physical Therapy Association as follows:
What does patient access to physical therapistsí services without referral mean and why is it needed?
Patient access to physical therapistsí services without referral means the removal of the physician referral mandated by state law to access physical therapistsí services. Thirty-eight (38) states have granted consumers the freedom to seek physical therapy treatment without a referral. Currently, a referral is required by state law to initiate treatment by a licensed physical therapist in 12 states.
This referral mandate causes delays in the provision of physical therapists' services to individuals who would benefit from treatment by a physical therapist. Delays in care result in higher cost, decreased functional outcomes, and frustration to patients seeking physical therapy treatment. Eliminating the referral mandate results in timely, and thus more effective, physical therapistsí services.
Are physical therapists qualified to deliver physical therapistsí services independent of referral?
Absolutely. Physical therapists are educated at the post-baccalaureate level and receive extensive education and clinical training in the examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention of patient/clients with functional limitations, impairments and disabilities. Beginning January 1, 2002 all physical therapy programs will be required to be accredited at the masters level. Physical therapists are qualified to recognize when a patient presents with signs and symptoms inconsistent or outside the scope and expertise of the physical therapist and when the patient should be referred to a physician. APTAís Guide of Professional Conduct advocates that physical therapists should assist patients in receiving appropriate medical care when the physical therapistsí examination and evaluation reveals signs and symptoms inconsistent with a condition that can be appropriately treated with physical therapy or needs a physicianís care and expertise.
Liability insurers and the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy affirm that physical therapistsí services provided without referral does not jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of the patient/clients seeking physical therapistsí care and services without referral. Health Providers Service Organization (HPSO), the leading liability insurer of physical therapists in the United States, states in a March 22, 2001 letter, "that direct access is not a risk factor that we specifically screen for in our program because it has not negatively impacted our claims experience in any way. In addition, we do not have a premium differential for physical therapists in direct access states."