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Tips From A PT Direct Access

Tips From A PT: What You Need To Know About Direct Access

by Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT, Astym Cert.Leave a Comment

Have you ever heard of “direct access” physical therapy? No, you haven’t? Well, you’re in the right place. Even if you have heard of direct access, this will be a good review of what it is, how to use it, and when to use it. Let’s take a look.

Direct access to physical therapy allows a patient to seek treatment from a licensed physical therapist without a referral from a medical doctor or specialist first. This can expedite receiving physical therapy and help you on your journey to getting better sooner. A recent research study published in 2021 determined early access to physical therapy resulted in reduced total physical therapy costs, healthcare costs, and total physical therapy sessions compared to seeing a physician before starting physical therapy.1 What’s not to like about that? You spend less money on physical therapy, and less money on healthcare overall and get better in fewer sessions by utilizing direct access.

Physical therapists receive doctorate-level education to provide comprehensive evaluation, examination, and treatment to patients who enter the clinic. This valuable training allows PTs to determine the best course of action to help them feel better faster. In some cases, patients who come to the clinic aren’t good candidates for physical therapy and may actually need to see a physician. Physical therapists can accurately recognize who is a good fit for PT and who may require an additional evaluation from another healthcare provider.

What about insurance? Will they cover your physical therapy if you don’t have a referral? The answer, in most cases, is yes! While not all insurance companies require a referral from another healthcare provider, it is always a good idea to check with your insurance provider yourself to know if you need a referral ahead of time. If you’re having trouble doing it on your own, our talented patient experience team can help you determine if you need a referral.

All 50 US states have some direct access law; however, the rules and regulations in each state vary. These laws can be found by clicking here. Our team at each Athletico clinic can further explain direct access laws in your state if anything needs to be clarified.

Athletico also offers free assessments. During the assessment, one of our talented healthcare professionals will talk with you and evaluate you to determine the best course of action to address your pain or chief complaint. At the end of the assessment, our team will provide you with a recommendation as to what you should do next. In some cases, this means initiating physical therapy, and other cases may involve a referral to a physician or other health care provider.

Have more questions about direct access? Call your local Athletico clinic today and we’d be happy to clear things up for you. Dealing with an ache or pain that doesn’t want to go away? Get scheduled for a free assessment today. Free assessments are available in-clinic or virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Schedule a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Hon S, Ritter R, Allen DD. Cost-Effectiveness and Outcomes of Direct Access to Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Disorders Compared to Physician-First Access in the United States: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Phys Ther. 2021 Jan 4;101(1):pzaa201. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzaa201. PMID: 33245117.

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