Did you know you can come to see a physical therapist without having to see your doctor first?
In New Jersey you have direct access to your physical therapist. This means that a physician referral or prescription is not required to see your physical therapist. If you have back pain after shoveling the driveway or a stiff neck from sleeping on a different mattress while traveling, you can come in to see your physical therapist without having to go see your doctor. In addition to painful conditions if you want to improve your balance, improve your range of motion and strength, or start a new exercise program your physical therapist can help with that too!
Being able to come see your physical therapist directly has multiple benefits. The first benefit is decreased time to starting care for your condition. Often with painful conditions the sooner you get into physical therapy the easier it is to resolve the symptoms and eliminate the pain. When symptoms become chronic it can take longer for all forms of treatment to help decrease those symptoms. Second, by seeing your physical therapist first you can choose conservative, non-pharmacologic care as the first treatment for your condition. The opioid crisis is real and all medications carry some risk of side-effects. Physical therapy is an extremely safe option to treat pain. Third, if a physical therapist thinks you need further evaluation is required, we have great relationships with the best doctors in the area and can connect you with the right physician for your problem-generally without a long wait!. Finally seeing your physical therapist directly can save you time and money. By getting PT first you can avoid having to schedule a visit and wait at the doctor’s office, pay a doctor’s co-pay or deductible just for the doctor to send you to your physical therapy anyway.
Physical therapists are experts in the neurological and musculoskeletal systems. We are trained to screen patients that are appropriate for physical therapy treatment and how to identify patterns of signs and symptoms that warrant further medical attention.
Will my insurance cover my care without a referral from my doctor?
Every insurance company is different. Many major plans will pay for physical therapy without a referral. When scheduling your first visit at our offices we will take your insurance information and verify your benefits to determine what your responsibility is and if your insurance company will require a referral or prescription from your doctor.
The direct access physical therapy law in New Jersey:
The direct access law in New Jersey states that patients can see their physical therapist without a referral. It also states that at 30 days from the start of care, the patients doctor should be updated regarding the plan of care, or if the patient is not making reasonable progress that the patient be referred back to their doctor. The law also states that during the initial evaluation if the physical therapist feels that patient is not appropriate for physical therapy treatment or further testing is required (x-ray, MRI, or blood work as examples) the physical therapist will refer to patient to the appropriate healthcare provider.
Next week Gerry from Challenger Strength will talk about how he refers clients to physical therapy when they are having pain or movement dysfunction.