What is Direct Access and Why is Direct Access Important?
Direct access refers to the ability of patients to be directly seen by a physical therapist for evaluation and treatment without being referred by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner.
Arizona is a state that allows this; not all states allow direct access. However, recent data shows that the effect of direct access on our practice appears to be less than anticipated. From talking with many of my patients over the past couple of years it is evident why. First, people don’t know about it. Second, the field of physical therapy has not done a good job of educating the community about direct access and it’s benefits.
Using direct access in physical therapy practice requires both a high level of confidence and competence in clinical judgment, decision making, and skill.
In 1993 the first physical therapy program transitioned from a master’s degree to a doctorate degree. As of 2015, all PT programs in the US are now a doctorate program. The curriculum of the doctorate programs is significantly more extensive and comprehensive. Now, physical therapists are free to develop the type of referral relationships that exist among other professional groups by serving not only as the recipient of referrals but also as a referral source.
Using direct access has many advantages.
1) It saves time, money, and stress with no need for a time-consuming trip to a doctors office
2) Helps patients become more actively engaged in their healthcare decision making
3) Develop more collaborative relationships with other health care professionals
4) Improves patient access to care
5) Can become a part of a patient’s routine for injury prevention, fitness, and health
6) Improve physical therapy outcomes and get better results
How can direct access improve your physical therapy results?
Expert opinion has described the prevalence of low back pain experienced by modern society as an “epidemic”. Low back pain is acute, subacute, recurrent, or chronic. Given the high prevalence of recurrent and chronic low back pain and the associated costs, clinicians should place a high priority on preventing recurrences. Most acute low back pain cases are diagnosed as “non-specific” meaning that a pathoanatomical cause of the pain is not determined. As a patient, this may seem frustrating. But, the good news is that non-specific low back pain often resolves on its own after a few weeks.
On the other hand, numerous studies have demonstrated that the right type and amount of early treatment may help prevent acute low back pain from developing into a chronic condition. Unfortunately, what often happens is a patient doesn’t know about direct access. If their acute low back pain does not resolve then they will try to get in to see a doctor. Many patients are referred to physical therapy. The amount of time that passes from the onset of acute low back pain to the time I finally get to see the patient, the condition has now become chronic in nature and will take longer to rehabilitate.
At Foothills we can help to avoid this from happening. If you feel pain, you can go to our website and search for a location near you. Give the clinic a call. They can then verify your insurance and coverage or speak with you about cash pay rates. Schedule an appointment today and #GetYourMoveBack.