Physical Therapy: Direct Access

Oregon is a direct access state for physical therapy. What does this mean for you?

It is commonly understood that you need a doctor’s referral to get specialized care. Many people often see their primary care physician as the first point of contact with any ailment, and trust their doctor to direct them to the right specialist for further investigation and diagnosis. In recent years, however, with rising healthcare costs and a change in physical therapy education and practice, many states have passed laws that allow direct access. This means, if you have a condition involving your muscles or joints you have the ability and the right to see a  physical therapist (a musculoskeletal specialist) without a referral from your doctor (though sometimes, it depends on your insurance policy). While this is not a federal law, several states have some version of direct access.

According to a 2016 article in the American Physical Therapy Association’s magazine, PT in Motion, Oregon is one of several states that provide unrestricted direct access. You can see a physical therapist in Oregon and trust that they will be able to do the necessary tests to determine if your injury is appropriate for physical therapy or if you need to be referred to your primary care provider (instead of the other way around). A study done by the American Physical Therapy Association has shown the same quality of care, no adverse events and lower cost for patients who saw a physical therapist through direct access compared to those who went to a primary care provider first.cost-savings-imaging-expense-GetPT1st (1)

Physical therapists are trained to rule in and rule out red flag signs and symptoms. If we are in doubt about a diagnosis, or if your symptoms do not properly align with a physical therapy appropriate condition, then we refer you back to a medical doctor to receive the appropriate care. More often, though, people see their doctor for a muscle or joint condition and are then referred to a physical therapist for conservative care. Direct access allows you to skip a step, to make one less medical appointment, save money, and go directly to the person who can treat your symptoms. You wouldn’t go to a physical therapist first for a sore throat, and you shouldn’t go to your primary care provider first for a pulled muscle.

So, if you think you have a musculoskeletal injury, see your physical therapist first! Start by calling our office (503)292-5882 and our helpful staff will get you an appointment and check your insurance company’s requirements/coverage or explain more about our reasonable cash pay rates.

Chie Tadaki, PT, DPT



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