Physical Therapy Without a Physician Referral
Direct Access Removes Barriers, Saves Money, and May Improve Outcomes
Maybe you have nagging knee pain every time you run more than a mile. Or you woke up with a kink in your neck. Perhaps you’ve been dealing with low back pain for years and have never tried physical therapy.
Direct access could be for you.
What Is Direct Access?
Direct access is the ability to see a physical therapist without first obtaining a referral from a physician. As of 2015, 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Virgin Islands have some form of direct access.
Why Choose CORA for Direct Access?
While not every insurance company pays for physical therapy without a referral, everyone is eligible for a 10- to 15-minute complimentary screening at a CORA clinic. Because all of CORA’s 150+ physical therapy clinics have a direct access policy, it’s easy to find convenient treatment, which often begins the very same day.
During this initial evaluation, our trained therapists will determine whether you are a good candidate for therapy and explain the next steps, which might include traditional therapy, a recommendation for a specialized cash-pay program such as Astym therapy or AlterG, or referral to a physician for a more serious condition. Your PT can explain what is covered under your insurance policy, and if you don’t have insurance, we offer affordable self-pay rates.
We encourage patients to come by one of our clinics or set up an appointment, even without a doctor’s referral. And if you don’t have a doctor, we have great relationships with many specialized practitioners in the communities we serve and can help connect you to a trusted local physician.
Removing Barriers to Physical Therapy
Direct access removes many of the barriers to physical therapy and provides the following benefits to patients.
- Saves time. Instead of spending time on the phone or in a waiting room to arrange a referral, you can call CORA directly to set up an appointment, or even walk into one of our conveniently located clinics. Studies show that direct-access therapy services result in fewer general practitioner visits and hospital admissions than those arranged via physician referral.
- Saves money. Direct access may lower the cost of health care for the patient because it eliminates the need for a doctor’s visit to obtain a referral. Studies have also found that when a patient receives therapy services first, it decreases the need for costly imaging and medications.
- Speeds recovery. Through direct access, patients can experience less pain and a faster recovery. Research indicates that direct access patients generally had better outcomes at discharge and achieved it in fewer visits than those referred by physicians. Patients also reported a higher degree of satisfaction with therapy through direct access.
While the guidelines for direct access vary according to state law, our knowledgeable intake personnel can verify benefits and explain Direct Access as it relates to your insurance. Most insurance plans, including Medicare, now honor some form of direct access. Co-payments for treatment still apply, but the initial screening is always complimentary.
Direct Access Gets You in the Door
Come by or contact a CORA clinic in your area so that we can explain more about direct access and help you understand the benefits of physical therapy and the services that our clinics offer. We have locations across Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, so come directly to us whenever you need us — no referral necessary. Book your appointment today!
New Patient or Feeling Anxious? Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you are a first-timer or simply want to learn more about Direct Access, here is some helpful information.
What should I wear?
We recommend comfortable clothes and closed toe shoes such as tennis shoes. If you have shoulder pain, a t-shirt will help our clinicians access the site of your pain. Shorts or loose-fitting pants are best for patients with hip/knee or lower body pain. Some treatment options and/or evaluations may require movement, so avoid clothing that may impair activity.
What do I need to bring?
We’ll need a valid picture ID, your insurance cards, relevant referral and/or doctor’s notes (if available), and a written summary of imaging notes. Our clinicians may also ask for a list of your medications.
What can I expect during my first visit?
While we do our best to keep it at a minimum, expect some paperwork. You’ll take a 5-minute survey called Focus of Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO) to help us determine the best treatment options for you. We’ll ask about your primary complaints and your limitations with sports, daily life and work. With this information, our PTs can develop a custom treatment plan that’s right for you.
What if you don’t take my insurance?
Chances are that won’t be an issue. CORA is a community provider who participates in many insurance panels and in fact, accepts more than 4,000 plans. And if you don’t have insurance, no problem! We offer very affordable self-pay rates.
How many visits will my treatment require?
The great thing about CORA is that every treatment plan is customized. Some of our patients come just once a week for a few weeks, while other patients require more time for treatment. At your first visit, your PT can explain your recommended treatment frequency and duration to work toward 100% recovery.
How long is a typical physical therapy session?
Most sessions last between 30–60 minutes, from one to several times a week, depending on the patient’s needs.
Will I experience pain after my visit?
Some patients do experience temporary muscle soreness or minor pain and irritation after their visits. However, the discomfort is usually minimal, and our PTs will provide you with the resources and support to make sure that the treatment does not impact your day-to-day activities.
Is my physical therapist licensed?
YES! All physical and occupational therapists at CORA have passed the national board exam and are currently licensed by the states in which they practice. To keep their licenses current, they must stay up to date with best practices through continuing education courses. Many of our PTs have doctorate degrees.
What will my treatment look like? Will I get massage and hot packs?
Your treatment plan will be individualized based on your diagnosis and goals, using cutting-edge research and an evidence-based treatment approach. It goes beyond treating symptoms with massage and hot packs to address the underlying problem of stiffness, weakness, coordination, etc. Our approach is proven to be highly effective to get you back to work, sport or play as soon as possible!