Adirondack Health launches direct access physical therapy initiative

August 26, 2020

Patients can now see a physical therapist without a referral through Adirondack Health’s rehabilitation and sports medicine department direct access physical therapy appointments.

By working directly with a physical therapist, patients are cared for by a licensed clinician specializing in movement disorders and musculoskeletal injuries. Participating physical therapists must have at least three years of professional experience, and patients are allotted 10 visits or 30 days of treatment interventions before referral to a medical provider is necessary. If the therapist determines that physical therapy services are not appropriate or that greater intervention is required, patients are assisted in securing a provider referral for further assessment.

“Our primary goal in offering direct access appointments is to empower our patients to make informed decisions,” said Rick Preston, director of rehabilitation and sports medicine at Adirondack Health. “For some, that means scheduling an appointment with their primary care provider and talking through a referral for physical therapy services. For others, that means getting in to see us for a clinical evaluation as soon as possible, and then following up with their primary care provider to keep them in the loop.”

Communication between Adirondack Health’s primary care providers and the rehabilitation and sports medicine department has been greatly enhanced by the presence of the health system’s new medical fitness center in Lake Placid. Since the facility opened to the public last year, doctors have had the ability to prescribe exercise to their patients – for example, before a knee replacement or after a pre-diabetes diagnosis. The medically integrated fitness center was closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but people who had a referral for exercise from their provider were still able to work one-on-one with certified athletic trainers with additional safety precautions.

“In healthcare, we’re evolving from treating the problem to treating the whole person – physically, mentally and emotionally,” added Preston. “If, for some patients, the convenience of direct access appointments can reduce stress the same way our licensed physical therapists can work with them to reduce acute and chronic pain, I’d call that a win-win.”

Anyone interested in scheduling a direct access physical therapy appointment should contact Adirondack Health’s rehabilitation and sports medicine department at 518-897-2697.

In some cases, physical therapy appointments may not be covered by health insurance plans without medical referrals. Adirondack Health’s rehabilitation and sports medicine department can contact patients’ insurance plans to determine individual coverage prior to direct access evaluations.

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