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Information Articles: Legislative

Physical Therapists and Direct Access to Patients in Illinois

Wednesday, May 2, 2018   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Lindsay Wagahoff, ICS Dir. of Gov. Relations
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Physical Therapists and Direct Access to Patients in Illinois


The past several weeks have been a very busy time at the Capitol. Both the Illinois Senate and the House of Representatives were under deadlines to vote on legislation and send bills to the opposite chamber.


During this period, the ICS alerted members with two different calls to action regarding physical therapists and direct access.  As you will recall, the physical therapists introduced legislation earlier this session to gain direct access and diagnose patients.


Currently in Illinois, a physical therapy patient is required to have a referral from a physician, dentist, advanced practice nurse, physician assistant or a podiatric physician. However, a strong trend has emerged in most other states to permit some access without a referral from a physician or another health care licensee (such as an advanced practice nurse, physician assistant or dentist).  Illinois is one of few states that does not currently allow physical therapists some form of direct access.


You will notice from our latest action alert this piece of legislation was nothing short of a battle.  We want to thank the 104 chiropractic physicians that responded to our most recent call to action by contacting their legislators to oppose the bill.  At the same time, we continued our efforts by working with a number of health care advocacy groups, legislative staff, and legislators to negotiate further patient protection measures.


Due to our persistent efforts, the ICS was able to successfully insert an additional layer of patient protection to the legislation. Language was added that requires a physical therapist to refer a patient to a physician or appropriate licensed health professional if the patient does not show continued improvement after 15 days of treatment with a physical therapist.  This provision will better protect patients by preventing indefinite treatment without a diagnosis in a patient who does not progress satisfactorily. This provision moved our position from opposed to neutral on this legislation.


As the legislation passed the House of Representatives, a physical therapist would be able to see a patient without a referral under the following conditions:

  • Physical Therapists are not able to diagnose.
  • Physical Therapists are required to notify the patient’s health care professional within 5 business days of when the patient is treated.
  • Physical Therapists are required to refer a patient to a health care professional (including chiropractic physicians) if:

1.       The patient does not demonstrate measurable or functional improvement after 10 visits or 15 business days, whichever occurs first; or continued improvement thereafter, or

2.       A patient who returns for services for the same or similar condition after 30 calendar days of being discharged by the physical therapists; or

3.       A patient whose condition should, at the time of evaluation services, be determined beyond the scope of practice of the physical therapists.

  • A written authorization from a physician is required for a physical therapist to perform wound debridement.
  • Also requires a physical therapist to promptly consult and collaborate with the appropriate health care professional anytime a patient’s condition indicates that it may be related to temporomandibular disorder, so that a diagnosis can be made by that health care professional for an appropriate treatment plan.

The legislation passed the House unanimously and now moves to the Senate.


The legislature will continue to be in session throughout the month of May. They are scheduled to adjourn on May 31. During this time, we will continue to advocate on behalf of chiropractic. Please watch for any action alerts and the Illinois Practice Edge as we continue to inform our members of any issues that may affect chiropractic. 




Phoukhong C. Lamvichit says...
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2018

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