Many states now allow patients direct access to PT. This means they can go directly to a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral. This streamlines the patient’s course of care and eliminates time lost between doctor’s appointments and OTC remedies. However, many patients are not aware of this option and still go their primary care first before considering physical therapy. As a practice owner, you want to market direct access and explain how it helps patients feel better sooner.
For most people, they only notice and acknowledge a condition once it becomes truly painful or prevents them from daily activities. Then, they search the internet and try to self-diagnose the problem. Finally, once the condition doesn’t improve, they call their doctor to schedule an appointment. This process could take weeks or months—leaving the patient in pain and possibly worsening the condition. Direct access allows patients to skip the doctor’s appointment often scheduled weeks in advance.
Additionally, doctors usually prescribe OTC pain relievers first before considering PT. These can relieve the symptoms, but the underlying physical ailment is not healing. Instead, your practice’s marketing shows patients that going to PT first allows them to be properly diagnosed and to see results right away.
Insurance does not pay nearly as well as it used to. Patients often spend $30-60 per office visit at their physician. Patients who start their care at the doctor’s office often spend upwards of $200. This is the estimated cost if they have an initial appointment and 2-3 follow-ups before physical therapy is prescribed. The doctor may also order tests, X rays, and prescriptions that increase costs and still may not treat the root cause of the pain. Similarly, this care can delay physical remediation and increase damage to the joints and tissues.
If the patient goes to PT first, they can save hundreds of dollars on care and start to feel better sooner. Additionally, physical therapy provides a more holistic look at the pain point and can identify the root cause and secondary impacts. Educating patients about these benefits of direct access is key to helping them feel confident to go to PT first.
The biggest challenge for practices in getting more patients to choose direct access to PT is uncertainty. Patients question their knowledge about PT– is it the right fit for their condition? By consistently explaining and providing testimonials of how physical therapy treats pain and restores movement, patients are assured that PT is the right fit for their needs. With regards to direct access, it is also important to emphasize that you will work with their doctor. Explain that you will share medical information, status updates and schedule follow ups. If the patient is confident in choosing PT, they will take advantage of direct access and come to you first.