“DO I NEED A PRESCRIPTION TO SEE MY PHYSICAL THERAPIST?”
Geoff Gunther, PT, DPT
This is a common question that we, as physical therapists (“PTs”), receive while interacting with family, friends, or patients. The answer is often a surprise to those who are inquiring. Since the Virginia General Assembly passed a law in 2001, PTs have legally been allowed to see a patient without an order from a physician. Subsequent revisions to the law in 2007 and in 2015 have further expanded access and given patients more freedom to seek medical care where they so choose. That said, there are still some important “rules of thumb” to keep in mind. These include:
- Direct Access is not recognized by all insurance companies: For example, all Medicare patients must have an order for physical therapy to continue beyond the initial visit. However, many insurance companies do allow Direct Access, and more are allowing it each year. If you have any questions, contact our office for verification of your status.
- Direct Access is only allowed for 30 days: At that point, if you require further medical treatment, you will require a physician’s prescription to continue your plan of care.
- Notify your PT of other medical practitioners: If you are receiving treatment from another medical professional, it is important to notify your PT immediately so that he/she can in turn coordinate with your other caregivers to allow for the best possible care.
Keeping the above points in mind, physical therapists can and do provide valuable care to patients who are suffering from musculoskeletal injuries. PTs undergo specific training in a doctoral program, or through required advanced training, to determine whether or not your problem is truly due to a musculoskeletal condition. If your condition is determined to be beyond the scope of physical therapy care, your physical therapist will refer you to the appropriate medical professional.
As health care in the United States has evolved, physical therapy Direct Access has been implemented to provide patients with an additional treatment option. Physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts and can assist patients with a speedy recovery after injury. If you have any questions about Direct Access or a musculoskeletal injury, please contact our office to speak directly with one of our physical therapists.