If you’ve been following the WebPT Blog for even a short time, you’re likely aware that direct access to physical therapy is the way of the future—especially now that some form of this patient-centric care exists in all 50 states. That’s why we’ve covered everything providers need to know about direct access, from marketing topics to individual state regulations. One thing we haven’t covered: what it’s like to be a direct access physical therapy patient. Interested? Well, you’re in luck; just a few short weeks ago, I was swinging a golf club—actually, more like flailing about with a golf club—and suddenly landed in a world of pain. Here’s what happened:
Pain is no Joke
About 24 hours after perfecting my “swing,” I found myself sitting at the WebPT office unable to move my upper body. I thought I’d head over to urgent care, get myself some good ol’ prescription-strength anti-inflammatories, and call it a night. Unfortunately, that quick fix wasn’t in the cards for me. After a steroid shot and a few muscle relaxers, I was still feeling the hurt. That’s when I knew I needed something better and more promising. In other words, I needed a PT.
Easy is Crucial
By the end of my weekend, I was wearing my shoulder as an earring, and trust me, it didn’t look fashionable. I had to find a physical therapist—and quick. I decide to search Yelp for a clinic that:
- was open in my area,
- offered a convenient location,
- had quality reviews, and
- had immediate appointments available.
I found a clinic that matched my criteria quickly. Even better, the organization was familiar with Arizona’s direct access laws and eager to help me even though I didn’t have a physician referral. With just a quick call, the front office staff confirmed my insurance information, and I was able to see a PT within the hour. I didn’t have to explain myself. There were no discussions about whether the therapist could see me without a script. This clinic’s staff knew their stuff. This was, by far, the best healthcare customer service experience I’ve ever had. The front office staff were compassionate, knowledgeable, and efficient.
Listening Goes a Long Way
When I arrived at the clinic, the office was organized, friendly, and—not surprisingly—super busy. I was impressed with the staff's ability to quickly check patients in. And I was thrilled to start my appointment on time. After filling out some brief paperwork, I had my visit with the therapist. During the initial evaluation, I explained my history of neck pain and my concerns about how this injury would affect my ability to continue with my normal activities—mainly, my beloved barre3 class. The therapist was more than understanding and spent a lot of time talking with me. And the best part? It might seem insignificant, but she made eye contact with me as I described my pain and concerns. I felt like—for once—a provider was listening to me, not just my symptoms.
Each Visit is Dynamic
Fortunately, my insurance allows an unlimited number of direct access visits—something else the clinic confirmed before I even set foot in the office. So, what does unlimited access to physical therapy mean for me? No stress about my treatment. I’m not worried about whether I’ll be able to reach my goals within a predetermined timeline. I’m able to work with my therapist on strengthening every muscle necessary to prevent re-injury and reduce the pain and inflammation I currently experience. Additionally, my therapist adapts my program to target the areas with which I’m struggling. Because of this approach, I feel like my plan of care is flexible and specific to my needs.
To sum it up: My direct access physical therapy experience was a game-changer. I now know what it’s like to see positive functional results, feel confident in my recovery, and experience reduced pain as I progress. It’s this type of dynamic and comprehensive care that fuels my passion for the PT industry. Also, I get to experience physical therapy in my own way and by my own choice. And that’s ultimately the whole point of direct access: Therapists can provide their patients with the quality of care they so desperately need, exactly when they need it, in a manner that best suits them—no prescription necessary.