What Direct Access to Physical Therapy Means for Patients

Get timely access to PT care while reducing healthcare costs
By Lily Beltran
What Direct Access to Physical Therapy Means for Patients

Physicians frequently refer their patients to physical therapists for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions like lower back pain, knee pain, rotator cuff tears, and a torn ACL. In some situations, you may be able to bypass the doctor’s appointment altogether and contact the physical therapist yourself—what is known as direct access.

According to Verywell Health, “In the United States, provisions for physical therapy services are governed by each individual state through a ‘state-practice’ act. The practice act is legislation that outlines how physical therapy services will be delivered.” In the past, each state required a referral to PT services from a licensed physician or other healthcare practitioner.

APTA to the Rescue

Thanks to lobbying efforts from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), all 50 states now allow patients direct access to PT. Verywell Health notes, “By having direct access in each state, physical therapists are recognized as the licensed professionals of choice to initially manage musculoskeletal and movement disorders in patients.”

There are limitations and provisions to direct access that vary among jurisdictions, according to APTA. For example, 28 states—including California and Washington—have “patient access with provisions,” such as a time or visit limit. 

PT Offers “Low-Cost Value-Packed” Healthcare 

As we all know, healthcare is expensive, and saving money is critical. When physical therapy is the first line of care, healthcare costs drop an average of $2,250 per diagnosis. With PT, patients can be immediately evaluated and treated without the use of diagnostic imaging or other expensive testing.

Instead, physical therapists can use their expertise with the musculoskeletal system to diagnose and prescribe a treatment plan for their patients. “Having the knowledge and the tools to figure out and treat the pathoanatomical tissue source is so vital in the orthopedic realm,” says Dr. Suren Meliksetyan, a double board-certified physical therapist serving Luna patients in LA.What is even more important is having the right eye to identify the contributing faulty postural habits or movement patterns (pathokinesiology). This is what really separates us from all other health professions—being able to take ownership of the movement system.” 

The ability to immediately receive treatment and start the healing process makes physical therapy a “low-cost value-packed healthcare service,” as Verywell Health puts it.

PTs and Physicians Partner for Better Health

Even with direct access to physical therapy, patients still need their physicians. Luna physical therapists communicate regularly with area physicians and love being part of their patients’ medical team.

And just as physicians refer their patients to physical therapy, PTs are a huge referral source to medical doctors. Dr. Christopher Wahl, a sports medicine surgeon in Seattle, says, “Physical therapists are now my biggest referral source, replacing...the general practice physician.”

Thanks to direct access, you may have two ways to receive PT care: through physician referral or by contacting a physical therapist. Whichever method works for you, choose Luna on-demand physical therapy. You’ll receive care that physicians trust and that you’ll love. 

Get timely access to PT care while reducing healthcare costs.
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