Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Life

August 14, 2013

FIT FAMILIES: Easier access to physical therapy benefits patients

GOSHEN — As the result of a new state law, Indiana patients now have more direct access to physical therapy care — including both evaluation and treatment — without a physician’s referral. HB 1034, which was signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in April, went into effect on July 1.

With the new law in place, Indiana now joins the other 49 states and the District of Columbia in allowing patients to seek an evaluation from a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. In addition, the Hoosier state joins 47 others, along with D.C., in granting patients access to treatment by a physical therapist without a referral.

“Direct access is an important step for reducing the cost of health care in our state, especially for chronic conditions that are frequently seen by physical therapists,” said Steve Sullivan, director of orthopedics, rehabilitation and sports medicine for IU Health Goshen Physicians.

Though the new law gives patients much greater access to physical therapy care, it does have a few limitations. After 24 days of receiving physical therapy care without a referral, a patient must then get a referral from a doctor in order to continue on the path of treatment. In addition, patients cannot seek physical therapy care without a referral for spinal manipulation and sharp wound debridement.

This new law greatly benefits patients by allowing them to get started on a physical therapy care regimen while they wait to be seen by their primary care provider. Quicker access to care can mean a smoother recovery for patients, as immediate physical therapy can speed up and improve the healing process.

“Chronic conditions, such as chronic back pain, can flare up from time to time,” Sullivan said. “Initiating therapy at the beginning stages of the flare up actually shortens the pain cycle. A patient may need fewer visits if therapy is initiated early on, which reduces the cost to the patient. Patients who are in pain and wait for treatment frequently develop poor movement patterns that cause secondary pain, such as hip or knee pain. As a result, it may take several months of therapy to correct both the back pain and pain from the new abnormal movement patterns.”

IU Health Goshen Rehabilitation Outpatient clinics are located in Goshen, Syracuse, Shipshewana, Nappanee and Middlebury. For more information, call 574-364-2606.

Note: Patients should be aware that while state law may not require a referral for physical therapy treatment, some insurance policies may require one. In the case that a patient’s insurance requires a doctor’s referral for physical therapy care, IU Health Goshen Hospital will help the patient sort out this aspect and get a referral when he or she calls for an appointment.

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