A friend experiencing neck pain recently called around to find a physical therapist who would see her. She had been to PT before and knew how much it would help. But because she was seeking out PT directly, without first going to a doctor, clinic after clinic turned her away. One said “we’re not doctors, we can’t diagnose” while another said flatly “we don’t treat without a referral.” Needless to say she was frustrated. She didn’t have the time to coordinate two different appointments, and since her pain was pretty bad, she wanted to get care right away.
Most states now have laws on the books that allow physical therapists some form of direct access without a doctor’s referral. So why are some clinics holding out on treatment when insurance isn’t the issue? Of course it’s important to communicate with and coordinate treatment plans with a patient’s primary care physician, especially if the injury or condition is severe. But does that mean physical therapists aren’t equipped to assess a patient’s non-life-threatening problem and treat accordingly? What’s your take on it? Does your clinic see patients without a doctor’s referral? As you see it, what are some reasons for or against it?