MUNSTER — A new state law that took effect this week is being praised by Indiana's physical therapists as a step that helps provide more immediate and direct care for patients.
Gov. Mike Pence signed the legislation in April. The measure, which took effect Monday, allows people to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist for 24 calendar days without a doctor's referral.
The Times of Munster reports that referrals still are needed for spinal manipulation and sharp debridement, a procedure that eliminates dead tissue.
With Indiana's new law, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a referral, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Indiana's law also means 48 states and the District of Columbia now allow some level of treatment by a physical therapist without a referral, the association said.
"We are thrilled that Indiana has become the latest state to offer patients the choice of direct access to physical therapist services," Paul A. Rockar Jr., the association's president, said in a news release.
Physical therapist and athletic trainer Kyle Savino, who also serves as director of operations for Northwest Indiana for Accelerated Physical Therapy, said the direct access law changes the way the company can provide service and care to its patients.
Under the law, they can receive relief and therapy until their doctor can examine them and offer a referral. Following 24 days, a patient must obtain a referral from an authorized health care provider to continue treatment.
"Instead of the traditional pattern of waiting to see a doctor and waiting to get therapy, we can get them on the road to recovery while they wait to see their physician," Savino said.
He said the legislation is ideal for someone who doesn't know the severity of a condition that is bothering them and wants to get it checked out.
"I think this is a huge step," Savino said. "I think it helps to provide more immediate and direct care to individuals who require that."
He said the law expedites a patient's recovery by allowing people to have access to a physical therapist sooner. But he noted that patients still need to check with their insurance provider to determine coverage.
Shane Sommers, president of the Indiana chapter of the physical therapy association, said the law is a big victory for patients and physical therapy in Indiana.
"This gives us great momentum and helps us to advance patient care," he said.