By: Laura Wenger, PT, DPT
2014 was a big year for the profession of physical therapy. As the profession and healthcare in general continue to evolve, many important changes take place on a yearly basis. Here are some of the important changes and updates in the world of PT this year:
• Direct Access: As of July 1st, 2014, Michigan was the 50th state, along with the District of Columbia, to adopt some level of direct access to evaluation and treatment from a licensed physical therapist. What does that mean? Essentially, depending on your insurance-specific requirements, you can go directly to see a physical therapist without having to see a physician to get a referral first. Some states have a requirement that you see a physician within a certain amount of time or visits after initiating physical therapy whereas others have no such requirement.
The benefit of direct access is that you can go straight to a qualified PT to evaluate and treat your injuries or impairments without having to wait to see your primary care physician or a specialist first, which can cut down on sometimes unnecessary waiting time to begin treatment. Because of the implications of direct access, physical therapists are trained in such a way to be able to identify any red flags that would warrant them to want to send you to a physician or other mid-level practitioners for further evaluation. That way, they will make sure you are evaluated and treated by someone else when it is necessary and appropriate. Oftentimes, PTs and physicians/mid-level practitioners work together to come up with the best treatment solution possible for each patient. The fact that all 51 jurisdictions in the United States will allow direct access beginning in January 1st, 2015 when Michigan’s legislation becomes active is a huge step for physical therapists and patients alike to make sure that the healthcare system is as efficient as possible. And, for just a little history lesson, the state of Colorado was on the forefront of direct access for physical therapists with legislation enabling it in 1988 with no current restrictions to access. The APTA has put together a great resource of research regarding direct access in physical therapy here.
• Dry Needling: In 2014, two of our neighboring four corner states, Utah and Arizona, joined Colorado by passing legislation that adds dry needling to a physical therapist’s scope of practice. Dry needling is a specific technique that utilizes a thin filiform needle through the skin to stimulate myofascial trigger points as well as muscular and connective tissues. This type of treatment can be helpful in addressing musculoskeletal pain and movement impairments, and requires specialized training and certification in order to be used by a licensed physical therapist. Our own Wendy Pollack, PT, MPT is Level 1 certified for dry needling through Kinetacore, and she is planning on completing her Level 2 certification in the spring of 2015. Dry needling is another tool in our physical therapy “tool bag” to help decrease pain and impairments in our patients, and it is exciting to see that more states are embracing the use of this treatment technique as a skilled intervention.
• Best States in Which to Practice Physical Therapy: This past year one of the industry’s magazines, PT in Motion, used 7 criteria to rate which states are the best to practice physical therapy in. Using ratings for well-being and future livability, literacy and health literacy, employment and employment projections, business and practice friendliness, technology and innovation, PT and student engagement with APTA, and compensation and cost of living, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provided overall rankings for the state where Colorado came in 2nd overall, just behind our neighboring state of Utah. Colorado especially displayed strengths in the individual ratings of well-being and future livability (2nd), business and practice friendliness (3rd), and technology and innovation (4th). It’s great for us to know that not only do we believe we live in a great state for its many outdoor and recreational opportunities, but it’s also ranked highly by the APTA for a state to live and work as a PT in! If you’re interested, you can read the rest of the article here, to get more details on the metrics used to come up with this ranking.
Those are just a few of the happenings and advancements in the field of PT this year. The APTA has a great website for the general public at www.moveforwardpt.com, if you want a resource to keep up to date on the profession of physical therapy and how working with a physical therapist can benefit you. We’d love to update you more on how PT can help your musculoskeletal injuries or prevent future problems at any time. Give us a call at (970) 259-0574 to schedule an evaluation with one of our PTs today.