I am often asked, “Do I need a referral before I can see you?” The short answer is, “No.” Research shows that seeing a PT first and early on can save time and money.1 As of 2014, some form of direct access is available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This means, that at the very least, every patient that comes through the door can receive an initial evaluation. Then, depending on the situation and the insurance carrier, the physical therapist may continue to treat without exceptions, may treat with approved interventions by the patient’s insurance carrier, or may refer back to a physician.
Similarly to most professions with a nationwide membership in a common association, Physical Therapists are guided by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Periodically, the APTA releases a ‘vision statement’ that provides direction to the community for at least 10 years. In 2000, the APTA released “Vision 2020.” This document, later updated in 2013, remains the primary guiding resource for the Association and our profession.
Vision 2020 stated: “By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by doctors of physical therapy, recognized by the consumers and healthcare professionals as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and environmental barriers related to movement, function, and health.”2
This means that the House of Delegates for the association wanted all physical therapy schools to adopt a clinical doctorate level degree program, and for practicing PT’s to attain their transitional doctorate degree. It also means that they wanted patients or consumers to have direct access to physical therapy services, meaning they do not need a physician’s referral.
Many patients do come to physical therapy with a physician’s referral, but it is important to understand that this is not always necessary. MOST, but not all, insurance carriers will approve physical therapy evaluations and treatments without a physician’s referral.3 Find out if you need a referral by calling the customer service 800 number on the back of your insurance card, or you may call to set up an appointment to Peak Motion’s office manager, Teresa Krier, and she will verify your information before your appointment.
If you have pain with positions, postures, or movements, see us first!