First a little history. Prior to 2006, if you wanted to set up an appointment with a physical therapist, the PT could not treat you without having a referral from a medical doctor (i.e., a prescription with a diagnosis, specifically recommending physical therapy). In 2006, New York State enacted legislation that allowed people to receive physical therapy treatment without having a doctor’s prescription. This is called Direct Access, and for anyone seeking PT treatment in New York State it carries certain limitations. First, treatment can be rendered by a licensed PT for 10 visits or 30 days, whichever is less. Second, the treating PT must have practiced no less than 3 years and be at least twenty-one years of age. Third, the patient must be given written notification that the patient’s health plan may not cover the cost of treatment without a prescription from a doctor.
Despite the limitations, Direct Access has been a major benefit to our patient’s. Now when they go out and play too much or too hard, they can come see us, get evaluated and be treated. In turn, if is apparent their condition is something more serious, we can refer them to some of the best M.D.’s in NYC (by the way, it shouldn’t have to be stated but, we have absolutely no financial relationship with any of the doctors we refer to. We send patients to them because we know they are very good at their profession!). So it is the best of both worlds! A relatively minor diagnosis (which may not feel so minor) can be handled inexpensively and efficiently. And a more serious problem gets the attention and testing that may be required. So, despite its limitations, New York’s Direct Access legislation has proven to be a boon for our patient’s and a small step towards increasing the efficiency of delivering quality healthcare.