New law speeds access to physical therapists

September 4, 2018 GMT

SPRINGFIELD – A new law allows people to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral.

House Bill 4643 was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 16 and took effect that day. It permits physical therapists to evaluate clients and determine a treatment plan without first having to submit a diagnosis for a health care professional’s approval.

It also requires the therapist to notify the patient’s treating health care professional within 5 business days, unless treatment is being sought for general, noninjury-related fitness or wellness.

The move is being touted by industry professionals as a way to save costs and reduce opioid abuse.

“Studies across the country have shown that direct access to physical therapy is extremely cost-effective, reducing total health care costs by as much as 30 percent and, in some cases, reducing patients’ out-of-pocket costs by as much as 80 percent,” Mike Riley, president of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association, said in a news release.

“The most important benefit, however, is that studies have shown an amazing 90 percent reduction in opioid use when consumers have access to physical therapy. Since physical therapy is a non-addictive treatment that helps manage pain, thousands of Illinois pain sufferers will get relief without opioids,” Riley said.

“The health and cost benefits of this alone are staggering.”