New state law allows Texans direct access to physical therapists

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - More than 800 new laws are now on the books in Texas as of September 1.

One that's not as widely known gives patients more direct access to physical therapy. House Bill 29 passed during the recent legislative session. It means you can now see physical therapists without seeing a doctor or specialist first.

"It makes the process a lot faster and easier for them for the patient," said Michael Perkins, owner of Inspire Physical Therapy in College Station. Perkins has been in physical therapy practice for more than 20 years.

"It streamlines the process and it saves them a step and sometimes a kind of expensive headache of going to the doctor and waiting for a few hours in the waiting room and paying an extra copay and that sort of thing. So they are able to come in off the street and see us for physical therapy for a limited time," he said.

The Texas Hospital Association, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Orthopaedic Association lobbied against the legislation. The Texas Orthopaedic Association believes a medical diagnosis should be the foundation for physical therapy. Legislators worked on a compromise on the law's language in Austin.

"I think that people have warmed up to this over the years. Certainly, therapists have wanted this for a long time and it's a big boost to our profession and really is kind of a positive tectonic shift for physical therapy in the State of Texas because most states have direct access," said Perkins.

He believes the change can help patients on the road to recovery faster. But physical therapists can't make a diagnosis.

"What we as therapists will do is discern do they need a doctor's referral which they sure may. And those of us who have been practicing therapy a long time for me about 20 years will certainly get them to the doctor if they need imaging or need more than what we can provide in our clinic," he said.

The new law limits patients to seeing physical therapists up to 10 business days. In certain instances, it can be up to 15 days.

The American Physical Therapy Association said the new law makes Texas the 49th state to allow direct access for physical therapy.