First a little Physical Therapy history.
Prior to 2006, if you wanted to set up an appointment with a physical therapist, the physical therapist could not treat you without having a referral from a medical doctor (i.e., a prescription with a diagnosis specifically recommending physical therapy).
What was Direct Access Legislation and What Did It Change?
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 physical therapy treatment in New York State, it carries certain limitations.
First, treatment can be rendered by a licensed physical therapist for 10 visits or 30 days – whichever is less. Second, the treating physical therapist 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.
Benefits of Direct Access Legislation to Patients
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 without ever needing to get a referral or prescription from a doctor.
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.