April 1, 2016
Direct access occurred when the state removed the mandate that required a patient to get a physician referral in order seek a physical therapist’s services, including evaluation and treatment. This means a patient is able to be seen by a licensed physical therapist without having to get a referral from a physician. Direct access provides the patient with greater access to health care, reducing time before treatment and improving outcomes. This has been shown to reduce cost to both the patient and health care system.
Physical therapist have extensive education in the examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention of patients with functional limitations, impairments and disabilities. This training includes being able to identify when a patient's signs and symptoms are outside of their scope of practice, and when to refer the patient to a physician. The educational requirements for an entry-level physical therapist is an accredited program that graduates their students with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree.
Direct access rules vary by state, and some insurance plans still require a primary care physician referral for coverage. If you have any questions regarding direct assess, I encourage you to contact your local physical therapy office. As a courtesy to our patients, Portland Physical Therapy contacts your insurance company to check insurance benefit, including if a referral is required.