Are You Making the Most of Your Direct Access to Physical Therapy?

While many states places restrictions on access to physical therapy, Colorado is among those that permit “direct access” to PT. If you live in Colorado, are you reaping the benefits of that?

What is direct access?

Direct access to physical therapy means that insurance will cover your evaluation and treatment services with a physical therapist without requiring a referral from your physician or other healthcare professional. Direct access is sometimes called “self-referral,” because you simply make your own appointment and go to a PT for treatment if you’re experiencing pain or other relevant condition. 

Direct access to physical therapy can save you time and money by getting the services you need faster. 

Who has direct access to physical therapy?

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands allow you to have an evaluation by a physical therapist and receive at least some form of treatment without a referral. But many states limit the circumstances of receiving treatment without a referral. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) lists the level of direct access available in each U.S. state.

Coloradans are lucky! Colorado is one of 20 states that have unrestricted direct access for patients. Heather Lane Physical Therapy in Denver receives patients both ways, directly or through referral, according to PT and owner Dr. Patrick Donovan.

No matter where you live, Medicare insurance gives you direct access to a physical therapist. The Medicare Benefit Policy Manual was revised in 2005 to allow Medicare beneficiaries access to PT services without a referral, as long as they are, in general, “under the care of a physician.” Physical therapists still must comply with their state’s referral laws and other regulations. 

Benefits of direct access

A Heather Lane PT can evaluate your health or pain concerns to determine whether you can benefit from physical therapy services and then provide one-on-one treatment. Your PT also can let you know of any warning signs or concerns the evaluation brings to light and refer you to the appropriate healthcare professional.

If you need no referral, you’ll save the entire step of seeing another healthcare provider before jumping right into your physical therapy. This speeds up the start of your treatment. Receiving help sooner, in turn, may mean you’ll need fewer sessions and you’ll begin to see results faster. Ultimately, you may have a better outcome, expedite the relief of your symptoms and reduce the risk of further injuries.

No risk to skipping the referral

If you haven’t seen your family doctor before making your physical therapy appointment, you do not have to be concerned that something will get overlooked or you’re going down the wrong medical path. Physical therapists are licensed professionals trained in treating various musculoskeletal issues. Their rigorous studies make them highly knowledgeable in their expertise. PTs know the difference between ailments they can treat and those best left to a different healthcare provider or physician for further investigation.  

Physical therapists receive a minimum of seven years of schooling and must obtain a Doctorate of Physiotherapy (DPT) before being eligible to take the licensure exam. Dr. Donovan has a DPT and is experienced in orthopedic manual therapy, functional dry needling and correctional movement patterns for all age groups. 

Call Heather Lane Physical Therapy today at 720-507-3962 to schedule your comprehensive physical evaluation. If Dr. Donovan determines that you can benefit from physical therapy, he’ll create a tailored program for your needs. 

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