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You don't need a referral!

You don't need a referral!

A little over ten years ago, I broke my wrist. From injury to operating room I danced from an appointment with my family doctor who referred me to a general orthopedic surgeon who finally referred me to a hand specialist. Even if I initially had an inkling that the fracture would require surgery, I could not have gone straight to the specialist. Thus, I paid for two extra appointments and multiple rounds of imaging in the process of getting to who I needed.

Such was the scene ten years ago: Everything started with a referral from the family doctor, who was the gatekeeper to the rest of the healthcare world. Thankfully, this is not the case today.  Sure, you can still get referrals from your primary care physician, but more often than not, you can just call the specialist and make an appointment.  In fact, just a few years ago, the state of Ohio passed a law allowing patients to see a physical therapist without a physician referral.

How did this come about?  Ohio, and eventually all 50 states, was finally convinced that physical therapists are equipped with the knowledge to practice autonomously.  Today, accredited physical therapy school are required to train their students in primary care evaluation, which allows therapists to read radiographic images, understand medications and their interactions, and screen patients for a more serious condition, such as cancer or stroke,  that would warrant referral to a physician.  Graduates of these programs earn their doctorates.  (At Core Wellness and Physical Therapy, both of our therapists have their doctoral degrees!) 

What does this mean for you?  It saves you time.  Making an appointment with your primary care physician in order to make a physical therapy appointment could take weeks to accomplish.  In the meantime, you continue to live in pain as a result of the delayed treatment.  It also saves you money.  You will likely have the expense of a co-pay (at a minimum) to see your family doctor. You may even be asked to receive an X-Ray or MRI before being referred, which could cost you even more.  After all of that, you will have in your possession an expensive little referral to physical therapy that you did not even need!

Don’t just take our word for it!  The research speaks for itself.  A 2014 systematic review concluded that direct access to physical therapy yielded improved health and lower costs for patients with musculoskeletal needs when compared to the outcomes and costs associated with an initial referral by a physician.1

So call us up or walk right in!  We will help you with all of your physical therapy needs, and if we find that you need something else, we will send you to where you need to go.

Kristen Schulte, PT, DPT

  1. Ohja et al. Direct access compared with referred physical therapy episodes of care: a systematic review, PHYS THER; January 2014: 94: 14-30; doi:10.2522/ptj.20130096.