Author - Anastasia Belikov, PT, Cert. MDT
Graduated with her DPT in 2017
IN THE KNOW
Friday, January 20, 2023
Physical therapy is a type of medical care that focuses on treating and preventing physical disabilities, pain, or injuries through the use of therapeutic exercise and other forms of intervention. It can often be used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments to help patients recover faster from injury or illness. Many states have passed direct access laws which allow individuals to seek physical therapy services without first obtaining a referral from a physician.
Direct access laws vary by state but typically allow individuals to visit a licensed physical therapist (PT) for an evaluation and treatment plan before needing to consult with their primary care doctor. The goal is to make it easier for people who need PT services to receive them quickly and conveniently without having to go through extra steps such as getting referrals. This can expedite recovery times and reduce costs associated with medical visits, as well as decrease wait times since patients do not have to be referred by a doctor before being seen by a physical therapist. Additionally, direct access laws give physical therapists autonomy and allows them to practice within their scope of practice without needing prior approval from other healthcare professionals. Direct access laws also increase patient satisfaction, as individuals have greater control over their own health care decisions when given the option of seeing a PT directly.
At this time, there are still a handful of states that do not offer direct access to physical therapy. This means that in these states, individuals must obtain a referral from their primary care physician or another healthcare provider before they can be seen by a physical therapist for evaluation and treatment. These states include Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi. In addition to the lack of direct access laws in some states, other restrictions may exist such as limitations on the number of visits an individual can have with their physical therapist without obtaining a referral. This list of direct access with restrictions applies to Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin.