Can You Go to a Physical Therapist Without a Referral?
We are asked this question on a frequent basis. The short answer for those of you who live in Michigan is yes.
Michigan law changed in 2015 and allowed you to receive services from a physical therapist with a few provisions. You are allowed 10 visits over 21 days to see your physical therapist for a condition. If you are not responding as would be anticipated after the 10 visits over 21 days (whichever comes first), your physical therapist is required to speak to an appropriate healthcare professional about your situation. Physical therapists are also knowledgeable in helping reduce the risk of injury and in promoting fitness. If you are seeking the services of a physical therapist for those reasons, you may see your physical therapist without a referral with no special rules to follow.
Although this Michigan law has been in effect for 5 years, many of the clinics in this area have internal policies requiring a referral from your doctor. Here at Red Cedar Physical Therapy, we follow the law and do not require a referral from your doctor. We understand that if you know you need physical therapy services that you increase your out of pocket cost scheduling a doctor visit for the referral. We feel confident in evaluating and assessing your situation. We have current procedures in place to help us determine if you are not a candidate for services. The first decision we make with every single patient (with or without a doctor referral) is to decide if our services will be beneficial for you. Often times your story about your condition and the systems review form that you complete contain very helpful information to help ensure we can be of assistance in improving your situation.
About 25% of the time, we are working with patients who do not have a referral from their doctor. There is something different about our practice though. I have specialty certification in geriatrics. This extra credentialing focused on specializing in older adults does come in handy with having a better grasp on conditions that affect older adults. We have not had any unusual issues or problems when working with these patients. Their doctors very quickly sign the patient's plan of care and get it back to us for the patient's chart. We have had a few times that we needed to contact the patient's primary care physician after the first visit because the patient needed something other than physical therapy services. The physicians and nurse practitioners in this area are fantastic team players and respond when a patient needs assistance.
Each state addresses this question with its own law. If you were to research this question, in my profession, we call this "direct access." Direct access basically means that you may directly access your physical therapist. If discussion this question internationally, globally the profession defines this as self-referral. Here in the States that creates some confusion because Medicare tends to use that term to define when a doctor refers a patient for services in which the doctor has ownership.