What is Direct Access?

Stephanie Wilfong, PT, DPT

Direct access can be thought of as self-referral to physical therapy. A doctor’s order used to be a universal requirement to begin therapy. Now, in the state of Maryland, you may begin physical therapy without a script from your doctor under direct access, with certain provisions. Direct access can be utilized if the physical therapist has a doctorate of physical therapy degree. A patient can be treated for up to 30 consecutive days before needing an official script from a doctor, nurse practitioner, chiropractor, or appropriate referral source. States differ in their direct access rules. Please refer to www.APTA.org to see if your state of interest allows direct access.

Direct access can allow the patient to stream line the process and likely be able to begin PT more quickly, as they don’t have to wait to get in to the doctor and then wait to see the physical therapist. Although physical therapists lack the ability to order certain diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, or prescribe medication, we are extensively trained in musculoskeletal and movement disorders. The education PT’s receive and the clinical training they undergo include the areas of examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention. We are trained to recognize certain “red flags,” which may indicate the need for referral to a physician.

If you have any additional questions about direct access and how you may utilize this in regards to your care, please give us a call.