A few years ago, a law passed that set the tone in putting the patient experience in healthcare at the forefront. It’s called Direct Access, and states that patients are permitted to see a physical therapist without a prescription or referral from a physician. Unfortunately, most people don’t know about this major shift in accessibility!
With Direct Access, you can now visit a physical therapist for up to 12 visits without a prescription.
Palak Shah, Head of Physical Therapy Services at Luna, details how great it can be to see your physical therapist. “With Direct Access, there’s a lot more awareness to the benefits and importance of physical therapy, when it comes to improving a patient's functional limitations. Sometimes getting a referral from a physician can be a slow process, potentially inhibiting the necessary treatment of the patient. Studies have shown that early access to physical therapy can increase patient outcomes. Coming to a physical therapist for your initial evaluation and subsequent treatment can work very well for the patient, therapist, and physician.”
Depending on your insurance carrier, you should be able to seek out a physical therapist on your own accord. The lack of awareness about Direct Access stems from the role physical therapists now play, compared to 20 years ago. We now have doctorate degrees that can help therapists work together with physicians to identify red flags. Therapists now have the education to be one of the first lines of defense when it comes to musculoskeletal injuries.
How Direct Access Benefits Patients
Direct Access can be useful when understanding the role a physical therapist can have for treating musculoskeletal problems. When therapists see patients in acute phase, Direct Access will help the outcomes of the patient and benefit the physician. Physicians know that their patients are being taken care of and have confidence that they will be redirected if the patient’s care is out of their scope of practice. Getting physical therapy fast and in a convenient setting can allow you to tackle whatever issue may be troubling you.
Direct Access help keeps thing simple. Keeping things simple will help the patient recover, manage pain, avoid excessive use of medication, and improve functional performance. As a patient, you can simply reach out to a physical therapist and request an initial evaluation. During the evaluation is where the physical therapist can confirm that they have the appropriate plan of care, and if not, direct the patient to a physician. The physician and physical therapist collaborate through the whole process.
How Direct Access Benefits Physical Therapists
While it is always best to review Direct Access laws in your specific location to understand the potential benefits and usages, Direct Access can be a game-changer for physical therapists. Therapists eventual goal is to help the patient reach their prior level of function and return to all activities prior to injury. Direct Access allows therapists to provide appropriate care without potential delays. This significantly helps in the timeline of patient recovery and the extent of the patient’s overall health; physical and psychological. As a therapist, this can lead to ultimate work satisfaction by seeing your patient recover to their greatest extent. It can help improve our confidence and ultimately the efficiency of the profession while showing therapists important role as clinicians.
How Direct Access Benefits Physicians
There is immense potential to find a solution for overly-booked, primary care physicians and internal medicine physicians who are gatekeepers and facilitators in the care of their patients. However, Direct Access can provide timely, efficient, convenient, and exceptional professional care by providing the ultimate benefits of patient recovery, without losing time. As therapists, we take pride and excitement of being supporters of better outcomes for patients.