What does “Direct Access” Mean?
Direct access means the removal of the physician referral mandated by state law to access physical therapists’ services for evaluation and treatment. Every state, the District of Columbia,
and the US Virgin Islands allow for evaluation and some form of treatment without physician referral. However, many of those states continue to impose arbitrary restrictions on direct access, or only allow for treatment without referral under very limited circumstances.
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. The risk of any health care provider missing underlying conditions is always present. However, physical therapists have an extremely low rate of malpractice and a low incidence of claims or complaints filed against them.
Direct Access Empowers Physical Therapists to:
- Improve collaboration and develop more meaningful relationships with other healthcare providers.
- Better compete with POPTS and other referral-for-profit entities.
- “Be responsible for all clinical decisions related to physical therapy patient care.”
- Diversify revenue and demographics appeal by adding “cash-based services in the areas of prevention, fitness, and health promotion.”
- Eliminate the need for unnecessary referrals, which saves patients time and money.
One more way Direct Access helps Physical Therapists: it eliminates barriers to entry. If people want PT, there shouldn’t be anything in their way of getting it. That’s what direct access does: opens the market and enables people to seek the services they want without restriction.
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