New law loosens physical therapy restrictions

2013-07-07T17:00:00Z 2013-07-08T13:32:13Z New law loosens physical therapy restrictionsVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

A state law that went into effect Monday allows people to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist for 24 calendar days without a doctor's referral.

Referrals still are needed for spinal manipulation and sharp debridement, a procedure that eliminates dead tissue.

"I think this is a huge step," said physical therapist and athletic trainer Kyle Savino. "I think it helps to provide more immediate and direct care to individuals who require that."

Gov. Mike Pence signed the legislation, House Bill 1034, in April.

With Indiana's new law, now all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a referral, and 48 states and the District of Columbia allow some level of treatment by a physical therapist without a referral, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

"We are thrilled that Indiana has become the latest state to offer patients the choice of direct access to physical therapist services," association President Paul A. Rockar Jr., stated in a news release.

Those representing the physical therapy profession will always push for complete and autonomous treatment, with the goal of making physical therapy free of referrals, Savino said.

Savino, who also serves as director of operations for Northwest Indiana for Accelerated Physical Therapy, said the company is excited about the direct access law, because it changes the way it can provide service and care to its patients. They can receive relief and therapy until their doctor can examine them and offer a referral.

After 24 days, a patient must obtain a referral from an authorized health care provider to continue treatment. 

"Instead of the traditional pattern of waiting to see a doctor and waiting to get therapy, we can get them on the road to recovery while they wait to see their physician," Savino said.

This legislation is ideal for someone who does not know the severity of a condition that is bothering them and wants to get it checked out, he said.

In a statement, Shane Sommers, president of the Indiana chapter of the physical therapy association, called the legislation a great victory for patients and physical therapy in Indiana.

"This gives us great momentum and helps us to advance patient care," he said.

Savino said Accelerated Physical Therapy believes involving a physician in the care of a patient is always in the best interest and well being of the patient. The new law expedites the recovery by allowing a patient access to a physical therapist sooner.

Patients still need to check with their insurance provider to determine coverage.

"Everybody can participate in direct access," Savino said. "The insurance plan will dictate if you need to have a physician's prescription or not (for coverage)."

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