Direct Access allows patients to seek treatment from licensed physical therapists without a prescription or referral from a doctor.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Direct Access means the removal of the physician referral formerly mandated by state law to access physical therapy. Today, every state, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands allow for evaluation and some form of treatment without physician referral.”
“Direct Access is becoming a more and more relevant topic as it coincides with the discussion of lowering healthcare costs,” said Joyce Glick, PT, vice president of Ambulatory Services for Bacharach.
“Direct Access has been shown to lower medical costs. In cases where patients see a physical therapist first, there is a lower overall cost of care with fewer physician visits, fewer expensive tests such as MRI, and fewer physical therapy sessions.”
The main purpose of Direct Access is to provide early intervention to patients by removing barriers to treatment, such as scheduling doctor’s visits and tests and waiting for results. While physical therapists do not medically diagnose patients, they are trained to identify red flags to see if the patient needs to see a physician. They would then collaborate with the patient’s physician to work to identify the problem.
“Physical therapists are not trying to take the place of physicians, but rather they are trying to create seamless access to services,” said Joyce. “Physical therapists are experts in identifying and treating injuries affecting muscles, joints and soft tissues. Reducing the barriers to receive treatment from physical therapists allows patients to be put at ease that they are being seen and monitored in a timely manner.”
Each state has different regulations, guidelines and safety nets built into Direct Access. In New Jersey, if a patient is not seeing improvement after 30 days of treatment then they will be referred to another healthcare provider.
“Direct Access is revolutionizing the way that patients are being treated,” said Joyce. “The sooner we can see a patient the greater the impact we can have in giving them a speedy recovery. Direct Access coincides with Bacharach’s overall mission and vision to improve the quality of life for members of our community.”