By Cathy Leer, PT, MBA
Do you know what we mean when we say, “a patient has a right to choose”? When it comes to physical therapy this means that you can pick and choose where you go and who you see, and not just who your doctor (or another provider) tells you to.
Maybe you’ve heard them say things like “they are right down stairs”, “I can keep an eye on your progress”, “I talk to them every day” or “it’s important that we get started right away, so take this when you check out, and the front desk will get you scheduled without delay.” BE AWARE: Any type of instruction, coercion, or encouragement on their part, as to where you should receive your care, may be breaking the law.
The Balanced Budget Act of 1977, and numerous court decisions and federal statutes, like the Anti-Kickback law, make it illegal for providers to get any type of incentives in return for referrals. If an individual profits’ from making a referral, this is considered fraud and abuse, and in doing so, they are subject to punishment.
An example of this is when a doctor (or other provider) has an ownership interest in the facility that they are referring you to and fail to divulge that information to you. Another example is when a physician who is an employee of a hospital or corporate entity gets incentives (usually monetary) to refer within their system. Both situations encourage the providers to refer based on financial reasons (money in their pocket) rather than what is your best interest or the quality of care that you will receive.
When it comes to physical therapy, you also have direct access care, which means you don’t need a referral to receive care by a physical therapist. So not only can you choose where to go, you don’t need a referral or permission from you PCP or specialist either.
So if you have received treatment through FPTS in the past and have been pleased by the quality of care, outcomes, and level of service, don’t get coerced into going somewhere else, especially if we have been the ones to encourage you to seek further diagnostics or opinions as to what may be contributing to ongoing symptoms or when a surgical consult may be in order! We CARE about you, and your ability to achieve the best outcomes possible.
You have a RIGHT TO CHOOSE and you can say NO to that specialist or other provider that encourages you to go to “their” facility.