Missouri bill would make it easier for patients to receive physical therapy

A Missouri bill could make it easier for those needing physical therapy to see an expert without the need for a referral from their physician.
Physical Therapy Bill

JOPLIN, Mo.–It’s not always quick or easy trying to get a doctor’s appointment, but for those needing physical therapy, that wait can be brutal, according to Kendra Cochran with Freeman Health System. 

“Well, if they have an injury, that’s keeping them from doing things they love, that’s keeping them from doing the work they need to do at their job. they need to be able to get in within one to two weeks,” the physical therapist said.

Currently, physical therapists in Missouri need to have a doctor referral before treating a new patient

A state bill will be voted on in the house next week that aims to change that. 

“It could take weeks and oftentimes you’re hurting, right? You pull the muscle… So what this does is, cuts out that loop to allow people to go directly to physical therapy. And you’re also not paying to see your physician,” said State Representative David Gregory. 

Cochran says that the waiting period can affect the outcome of their recovery. 

“When someone develops an injury that that affects their their their life, they want to get seen now, they don’t want to want to wait weeks… sometimes with brand new injuries, faster treatment means better outcomes.

Gregory says it’s about a patient’s right to choose the best care for themselves.

“You don’t have to go directly to the physical therapist. you can choose. you can choose to go to your physician first, thinking, I don’t know if it’s a need for physical therapy or it could be something more.”

If treatment goes longer than 10 visits or three weeks, then the physical therapist would need to speak with the patient’s primary provider. 

“It’s not designed to cut out physicians because they’re not needed. it’s designed to accelerate the situation.”

Cochran says despite concerns about taking the physician out of the equation, that hasn’t happened in other states with Direct access.

“One concern early on, when a lot of the other states started proposing direct access bills, one concern early on was that we don’t want to take the doctor out of the picture because what if they have a serious condition, such as a fracture or cancer? Even there are conditions where we want it, we do definitely want to have the docs involved. And in response to that concern, all of the physical therapy programs across the nation have transitioned to a doctorate level program where they’re required in their curriculum to train their students how to screen for things like that. We know as physical therapists, we are trained to refer out to doctors when they’re serious things, more serious things that need the care of the doctors.”

Gregory says it would give patients the ability to choose the best option for their recovery. 

If the bill is approved in next week’s House vote, it will move on to the senate.