What is Direct Access? And how it can benefit you!


In popular culture, the word “access” implies exclusivity—like a backstage pass to a rock concert or high-level clearance to government files. When it comes to direct access to physical therapy, however, the opposite is true. Direct access allows a patient to go to a physical therapist to receive an evaluation and treatment without a physician’s prescription or referral. That’s right; direct access essentially cuts out the middleman—no backstage passes, security authorizations, or physician prescriptions necessary.

Sometimes, when you’re suffering from an ache, pain, or injury, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with and might be able to pinpoint the cause of it. When that is the case, wouldn’t you prefer to get right to your physical therapist to begin treatment?

Direct access is governed on a state-by-state basis. All 50 states provide some form of direct access to PT, but there are restrictions and limitations depending on which state you live in. Arizona is one of 20 states where patients have unrestricted direct access to physical therapy, with no provisions or limitations for those who seek therapy without a referral. Before we get too deep into the thick of things, here’s a quick disclaimer: We’re not compliance or legal experts. The following data was sourced from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Which states offer limited patient direct access, which states offer direct access with provisions, and which states have unlimited patient direct access?

Limited Patient Access States
Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi have limited direct access to PT. Meaning, they have access to evaluation and limited treatment. In most cases, this treatment is restricted to patients with qualifying medical conditions.

Patient Access with Provisions States
There are 27 states who have direct access to PT with provisions.

– Arkansas
– California
– Connecticut
– Delaware
– Florida
– Georgia
– Indiana
– Illinois
– Kansas
– Louisiana
– Maine
– Michigan
– Minnesota
– New Hampshire
– New Jersey
– New Mexico
– New York
– Ohio
– Oklahoma
– Pennsylvania
– Rhode Island
– South Carolina
– Tennessee
– Texas
– U.S. Virgin Islands
– Virginia
– Washington
– Washington, D.C.
– Wisconsin

Find provisions for each state detailed here.

Unrestricted Patient Access States
There are 20 states with unrestricted patient access. This means there are no limitations or provisions for patients who seek therapy without a referral.
– Alaska
– Arizona
– Colorado
– Hawaii
– Idaho
– Iowa
– Kentucky
– Maryland
– Massachusetts
– Montana
– Nebraska
– Nevada
– North Carolina
– North Dakota
– Oregon
– South Dakota
– Utah
– Vermont
– West Virginia
– Wyoming

The Many Advantages of Using Direct Access: 

1. It saves time, money, and stress with no need for a time-consuming trip to a doctor’s office.

Going straight to a physical therapist will allow you to get help, lower your costs, eliminate expensive diagnostic testing, and it will decrease wait times at doctor’s offices.

2. It helps patients become more actively engaged in their healthcare decision-making.

The physical therapist is recognized as a licensed professional of choice to manage musculoskeletal and movement disorders in patients.

3. It improves patient access to care.

Can become a part of a patient’s routine for injury prevention, fitness, and health

4. Physical therapy improves conditions that impact the ability to move and perform functional activities, thus improving outcomes and providing increased strength and mobility to help prevent future injury.

Physical therapists can now work as an integral member of the health care team and provide a cost-effective access point for patients with a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions that impact their ability to move and perform functional activities.

No Referral Needed

At Foothills, we believe that rapid access to our services is an essential factor in efficient healthcare delivery. With direct access in Arizona, you can seek physical therapy services without a prescription from your physician or healthcare professional. Physical therapists have become part of the front-line management for patients’ suffering from musculoskeletal pain or injury. As physical therapists, we’re experts in movement and movement dysfunction, evaluating not only the injury/pain but the underlying conditions and contributing factors. Many needs can be addressed, assessed, and quickly treated without expensive on-going testing or surgery. However, should your injury or condition be outside of our scope of practice, we can refer you for further evaluation with one of the many physicians and medical providers we’re connected with.

Don’t let your health benefits go unused. 

In January, most health plans reset, allowing individuals to continue preventive or elective medical treatment. With your Full Recovery Focus in mind come to Foothills to get a hands-on, individualized approach to your evaluation and treatment. With your specific needs in mind, we can restore movement, improve function, and get you pain-free and feeling better than ever so you can start enjoying life again. Most think of physical therapy as a post-surgery requirement, but in reality, Foothills physical therapists are experts in restoring movement and function without surgical intervention!

If you’ve recently been injured or are suffering from a nagging ache or pain that won’t go away, contact us today so you can meet one-on-one with one of our physical therapists.

Schedule your free assessment here.


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