As one of the last two states in the country to pass direct access legislation for physical therapy, Texas may be late to the game, but starting September 1, Texans can visit a physical therapist for treatment without a physician’s referral.
Texas’ new Direct Access bill, HB 29, allows patients to bypass long wait times and costly and unnecessary visits to a physician and go directly to a physical therapist (PT) to get the care they need.
Texas is the 49th state to pass direct access legislation, and Fort Worth’s leading physical therapy provider, SporTherapy, calls the new law long overdue and a welcome change for patients and providers.
“This change is a win-win for everyone, and we are more than excited to be able to impact our patients lives with fewer barriers,” said Cassie Lackey, CEO of SporTherapy, the Fort Worth area’s leading physical therapy provider. “It will benefit the patient by allowing quicker access to physical therapist services, which has been proven to substantially lower costs, lower prescription meds use, and improve the outcome and speed of the patient’s recovery, getting them back to their normal daily activities sooner and maybe better than before.”
According to a study by Health Services Research, total health care costs for patients who had early access to physical therapy were less than half the total costs paid by those who waited three months to a year to visit a PT.
Many conditions can be successfully treated through a combination of hands-on treatment and exercise a physical therapist provides. Physical therapists are also highly trained in identifying conditions that might need further evaluation or medical treatment and can include primary care physicians when needed.
The new law does have guidelines and restrictions* for direct access PT treatment which includes:
- Treatment without a referral for up to ten (10) consecutive business days for a physical therapist with a doctoral degree in physical therapy or who has completed a minimum of thirty (30) continuing competence activities in the area of differential diagnosis.
- A PT with a doctoral degree in physical therapy who has completed a residency or fellowship can treat for up to fifteen (15) consecutive business days without a referral.
- To treat without a referral the PT must have been licensed to practice physical therapy for at least one (1) year and must be covered by professional liability insurance.
- Before treatment can exceed the authorized number of days, a referral must be obtained from a qualified healthcare practitioner.