What is Direct Access to Physical Therapy?
By Ryann Roberts, DPT, Owner
Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy (AZOPT)

It is beneficial for you to receive physical therapy first – before other types of interventions like surgeries or injections.  Physical therapists not only reduce pain and improve function, but we provide long-term solutions at a significantly lower price.  Yet many people are not aware that everyone has direct access to physical therapy.

What is direct access?

In physical therapy, direct access removes the need for a physician referral to access physical therapists’ services for evaluation and treatment.  Simply, if you feel you have a problem that may benefit from the skilled services of an AZOPT physical therapist, you are able to refer yourself to physical therapy for treatment, also known as self-referral.

A 2003 Arizona Statute removed the referral mandate.  This referral mandate previously caused delays to individuals who would benefit from treatment.  Delays in care result in higher costs, decreased functional outcomes, and frustration to patients seeking physical therapy treatment.  Eliminating the referral mandate results in timely, and thus more effective, physical therapy services.

Are physical therapists qualified to evaluate and treat?

Physical therapists are stringently regulated by all states, and as highly trained health care professionals, AZOPT physical therapists have a proven track record of effectively treating patients since 2007.  Our physical therapists are well-qualified, both through formal education and clinical training, to evaluate a patient’s condition, assess his or her physical therapy needs and, if appropriate, safely and effectively treat the patient.  Our physical therapists are also well-qualified to recognize when patients demonstrate conditions, signs, and symptoms that should be evaluated by other health care professionals before therapy is instituted.

Why Is Direct Access Important?

Healthcare is expensive.  A system that allows the patient to directly seek the services of a physical therapist can help save healthcare dollars by eliminating unnecessary tests or other specialist referrals.  Many conditions can be successfully evaluated and treated with no expensive diagnostic testing.

Keep in mind, your specific insurance policy may still require a visit to the primary care physician first or may limit your access to preferred providers only.  However, Medicare beneficiaries are able to go directly to physical therapists without a referral or visit to a physician.  In fact, almost all insurance carriers allow at least an initial evaluation without a prescription to determine when physical therapy is appropriate.

If your insurance carrier requires a referral from your physician, AZOPT will work with you to obtain the required paperwork.  Upon completing your evaluation, our physical therapists will prescribe a home exercise program for you to continue while we “wait” for the insurance process.  This allows you to begin your road to recovery and reduce your symptoms while improving function without waiting in pain!

Get back to doing what you need and love to do.  Don’t wait!  We can reduce your pain, improve your motion, increase your activity, and help you recapture the quality of life you seek!  Call AZOPT at (623) 242-6908 or visit www.AZOPT.net today to schedule your evaluation.