Direct access to physical therapists being sought
Updated: March 17, 2012 9:51AM
State Rep. Angelo (Skip) Saviano (R-77th) has introduced legislation amending the Illinois Physical Therapy Act that will allow health care consumers in Illinois to have direct access to physical therapist services.
Under current law, a physician referral is required before a person can be treated by a physical therapist.
The proposed legislation is aimed to:
Provide patients with quicker and easier access to a physical therapist, because an appointment with a physician is not required to get the referral. This will be of special benefit to underserved constituencies.
Lower health care costs by reducing the number of unnecessary doctors’ visits. Plus, studies have shown that fewer physical therapy visits are needed in states where direct access is allowed.
Give patients greater control over their health care treatment, including more choice when choosing a physical therapist.
The issue of direct access has been studied by several organizations. A five-year study conducted by the University of Iowa, an Oregon collaborative project involving Intel Corp., and an analysis of Blue Cross-Blue Shield claims in Maryland all validated the benefits of direct access.
“We know that direct access works,” said Chris Murphy, PT, president of the Oregon Physical Therapy Association. “Oregon has had direct access since 1993, and it has allowed for innovative and cost-effective models of care.
“There are no valid reasons to deny patients the right to access their physical therapist, and this access should be permitted in all states, including Illinois.”
Direct access can also help control rising health care costs. Not only can it reduce unnecessary doctor visits, but it also generally results in fewer physical therapy visits.
“I know that many health insurers are concerned that direct access will increase the number of visits a patient makes to a physical therapist,” said Colleen Flannery, executive director of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association, “but the study conducted in 2003-07 among nearly 63,000 physical therapy patients showed that the exact opposite is true – the number of PT visits actually decreased with direct access.”
In addition, the same study showed that overall related health care use (care related to the problem for which physical therapy was received, but not the physical therapy treatment itself) was lower in the group with direct access.
“We want the state of Illinois to ADAPT – Allow Direct Access to Physical Therapy,” said Sandy Levi, PT, PhD, president of the IPTA. “Physical therapy can improve the quality of life for so many people.
“Direct access will allow more people in the state of Illinois to benefit from treatment.”
Various forms of direct access are permitted in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Among the groups supporting direct access are the American Legislative Exchange Council, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the American Physical Therapy Association.
For details about the patient benefits of direct access, visit illinoisadapt.org.
Founded in 1951 as a chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, the Illinois Physical Therapy Association represents more than 3,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy statewide. Its purpose is to improve the health and quality of life of individuals through the advancement of physical therapist practice, education and research.