Patients throughout the state of Michigan can now feel even more empowered to take control of their health thanks to legislation that has recently been signed into law allowing patients direct access to physical therapists. “Direct access” means patients have the right to go directly to a licensed physical therapist (PT) for evaluation and treatment without a referral or prescription from a physician.
When this new law, Public Act 260 of 2014, became effective January 1, 2015, Michigan joined the ranks of 49 other states and the District of Columbia to adopt some level of direct access to physical therapy treatment. This new law creates the option for patients to see a PT without a referral or prescription from a physician for up to 21 days or 10 treatment visits, whichever occurs first. It also allows patients to see a PT directly for injury prevention and fitness promotion.
As a benefit to patients, direct access may eliminate the delay of health care services that would otherwise potentially result in additional costly medical tests and treatments, decreased functional outcomes, and decreased patient satisfaction. Jennifer Long, PT, DPT, Director of Rehabilitation Services at McKenzie Health System, comments, “direct access allows individuals who would benefit from treatment by a physical therapist to do that without a physician referral. Sometimes there is a delay in getting an appointment with a physician, and direct access allows patients to by-pass this. Eliminating the need for physician referral has been shown to result in timely, more effective care.” Long continues, “Direct Access does not eliminate communication with your primary care provider. Physical therapists will continue to communicate with your primary care provider regarding findings of the evaluation and treatment plan, especially if the physical therapist is concerned about other health care issues. Physical therapists are an important part of your health care team, and we are excited to now have direct access to PT services in the State of Michigan.”
Physical therapists are educated at the post-baccalaureate level and receive extensive education and clinical training in the examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention of patient/clients with functional limitations, impairments and disabilities. All accredited entry-level physical therapist education programs currently culminate in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Physical therapists are qualified to recognize when a patient presents with signs and symptoms inconsistent or outside the scope and expertise of the physical therapist and when the patient should be referred to a physician. APTA’s Guide of Professional Conduct advocates that physical therapists should assist patients in receiving appropriate medical care when the physical therapist’s examination and evaluation reveals signs and symptoms inconsistent with a condition that can be appropriately treated with physical therapy or needs a physician’s care and expertise.
It is recommended that patients verify insurance coverage prior to seeking direct access treatment.
For more information about direct access to physical therapists, please visit the American Physical Therapy Association’s web site, www.apta.org. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Physical Rehabilitation Services of McKenzie Health System, please call 810-648-0210 or visit us online www.mckenziehealth.org.
McKenzie Health System (MHS) is a not-for-profit medical and surgical hospital in Sandusky, Mich., with nine clinics in the surrounding region. Their team of health care professionals is dedicated to providing excellent, compassionate care and services to patients throughout the community. As part of their commitment to superior patient care, clinicians and staff work together to exceed expectations in quality of care, patient safety and patient satisfaction. For more information about MHS and the many services it provides, please visit their website at www.mckenziehealth.org or call them at 810-648-3770.
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