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What is direct access?

Direct access is exactly what it sounds like: patients having direct access to physical therapy services. This means that they do not need a physical referral or prescription in order to receive the services of physical therapists¹.

In the age of health care reform, state legislatures continue to seek solutions that will expand access to the health care services the citizens of their state need while also addressing the growth in health care costs. One of the most effective tools for cost control and increased access is easily attainable yet often overlooked and underutilized by legislatures – that of direct access to the services of nonphysician health care professionals. As highly trained health care professionals, physical therapists have a proven track record of effectively treating millions of patients. Physical therapists are well-qualified, both through formal education and clinical training, to evaluate a patients condition, assess his or her physical therapy needs and, if appropriate, safely and effectively treat the patient².

How can direct access benefit me?

In South Carolina, physical therapists are allowed to treat a patient without a referral for 30 days³. This eliminates the need for unnecessary referrals and also saves the patient time and money. This allows patients to seek immediate medical attention to alleviate an injury, which in turn expedites the healing process. In most cases, the faster you are able to see a physical therapist, the quicker your recovery time will be.

Direct access eliminates arbitrary barriers and results in timely, more effective care. It is something that is underutilized, simply because people don’t realize or understand that they are able to attend physical therapy without a physicians script. If people want PT, there shouldn’t be anything in their way of getting it. That’s what direct access does: opens the market and enables people to seek the services they want without restriction¹.


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