In my experience patients have much success with Direct Access. When patients see a Physical Therapist for musculoskeletal pain vs going through a physician referral they have a faster window for recovery. The literature is coming out with more and more evidence to support these personal anecdotal experiences. For instance here is and article that show Physical therapist’s have the expertise to see patients directly.
A recent article in Health Services Research looked at the comparison of self-referral vs physician-referral episodes to outpatient physical therapy. The results point toward direct access to physical therapy services as being the overwhelmingly better option for the future of healthcare.
Basic findings were those who self-referred had:
–fewer Physical Therapy visits.
–costs the system less for services.
–overall utilization of other resources for this problem were less.
We all know this but good to have it in the literature. Quality of care, with the least cost needed, is what we are striving to provide! Don’t we want this with anything we do on a daily basis?
The APTA has a press release that demonstrates Direct Access needs to be the standard route for patients to take in injury management. I educate my patients all the time in regards to not only Physical Therapists having the knowledge to treat them (or refer out if not acting mechanically), but also availability to care in terms of time-frame is more accessible (and quicker usually) coming to a physical therapist first. This proves how more cost-efficient our services are compared to the typical gatekeeper route.
Physical therapy is growing and consumers are more aware of the benefits now vs anytime in the past. We are also improving out education and post-graduate work, to advance our knowledge even more. It is our job as clinicians to do our part to provide these results to the public, one patient at at time if need be!