You Have the Right to Choose

Most Americans are aware that they have the right to choose their primary doctor. It’s not always clear to them, however, that patients have the right to choose who provides their physical therapy. Patient rights also cover the right to choose when it comes to referrals. When your doctor refers you to a specialist or physical therapist, it shouldn’t be “one and done.” You should be given choices; and you should be able to request a physical therapist of your choice.

Given the complexity of our healthcare system, a patient’s right to choose can get lost in the shuffle. Between scheduling appointments, taking medications, filing insurance claims, and coping with the stress of a medical crisis, you can feel pressured to make quick decisions. That’s when you’re vulnerable to your physician’s authority and the standard advice to “follow the doctor’s orders.”

Although you should trust your primary healthcare provider, and it’s generally good to follow a doctor’s advice, it remains a patient’s right to choose who provides your physical therapy. After all, it’s your body and your health. Ultimately, your health is your responsibility.

What does the law say?

Back in 1998, the US Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry adopted what is familiarly known as “The Patient’s Bill of Rights.” This bill was updated in 2010 along side the Affordable Care Act, but the original basic tenets have remained the same.

Your basic patient rights include these:

  • The right to information about quality: You can look up information about doctors’ credentials, statistics regarding hospitals and clinics, and what your health plan covers in easy-to-understand language.
  • The right to choose a healthcare provider: In addition to your primary healthcare provider, this also covers specialists, including physical therapists, who are generally physician-referred.
  • The right to emergency services: You can’t be denied treatment in an emergency.
  • The right to make decisions: It’s up to you to decide which course of treatment you want to follow, if at all.
  • The right to respect: You must be treated with respect regardless of your sex, age, race, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • The right to confidentiality: Your health information is private and cannot be released without your consent.
  • The right to complain: All providers (insurance, physicians, clinics and hospitals, etc.) must have a grievance procedure.

For a fuller discussion of these patient rights, see:

Three Rs: Patient Rights, Responsibilities, and Referrals

As much as the Patient’s Bill of Rights protects a patient’s right to choose in regard to health care, it was partly put into place as a consumer protection. For example, it is illegal for a physician to receive compensation for a referral, whether the referral is to a clinic or another individual physician. Anti-kickback laws help to assure you that your physician referral is for health-related reasons, not a doctor’s financial bottom line.

When your physician refers you to a therapist or a clinic, you should ideally receive a list of options. If the physician has any tie to a clinic or other therapist on the list, that information must be disclosed. Because you have the right to choose a physical therapist and the right to make decisions, it is up to you to decide which referral you will follow up with or whether you will follow-up at all.

A patient’s right to choose comes with responsibilities. It’s your responsibility to do your homework. It’s up to you to research the therapist you’ve been referred to. It’s up to you to seek a second opinion if you feel you need one. Remember, patient rights include the right to information, but it’s your responsibility to read it and base your care decisions on it.

Most of the time, your primary health care provider gives you a referral when he or she determines that you need specialized care or physical therapy. Other times, referrals come at the request of the patient. If you have a specific health concern and want to consult a physical therapist or schedule an appointment at a particular clinic for which you need a referral, you do have the right to ask your healthcare provider for a referral.

Asking for a referral

One of the goals of the US Advisory Committee when it drafted the Patient’s Bill of Rights was to encourage patients to take a more active role in their health care. Eating healthy food and exercising are certainly part of what the Advisory Committee had in mind, but taking a more active role also means taking the initiative in seeking the care you need.

Patient rights are only good if you exercise them. So how do you go about asking a physician to refer you to a specific clinic, specialist, or physical therapist? These are the steps to follow:

  1. Visit Your Primary Care Physician
    Talk to your primary care physician about your concern. In most cases, health plans only cover referrals made by a physician, so your care provider will need to verify your health issue.
  2. Verify Your Insurance and Referral Information
    Before you proceed, check with your insurance company for your plan’s referral requirements. Not all plans are the same. Make sure that your referral is to a preferred provider so your visit will be covered.
  3. Make an Appointment with the Therapist
    Getting pre-approval can save you in the long run. You don’t want to get stuck with a medical bill your insurance won’t cover. Once you’re approved, make your appointment with the physical therapist.

However, you also have the option to start with us first. There are many instances where we can treat you initially before even seeing your doctor – no referral necessary! We’d be happy to advise you as to whether you need a referral for anything that ails you and whether we can help you through our comprehensive physical therapy services.

Buyer beware

Speaking of coverage, did you know that open enrollment for insurance policies runs from November 1 through December 15, 2017. Now is the time to evaluate your coverage and determine whether your coverage meets your medical needs. As with any product or service, as a consumer it is important that you understand what you are buying.

You shouldn’t base your choice just on the monthly premium you’ll need to pay; a lower premium almost certainly means you will receive less in benefits and a higher deductible, and possibly not have physical therapy covered in your policy.

It’s important that you assess your health care needs and then closely review available policies to determine whether you’ll be receiving the coverage you need. If you need help determining whether the policy you are considering will cover the physical therapy you need, contact us [link] today and we can put you in contact with a specialist who can answer all of your questions and help ensure that you sign up for the coverage you need.

Make Midland Physical Therapy your preferred referral

Midland Physical Therapy offers a number of services—from traditional physical therapy to manual therapy. Following surgery or a sports injury, chances are good that your primary healthcare provider might recommend that you seek physical therapy to assist your recovery.

Gathering information about physical therapy when you’re anxious to schedule an appointment can lead to a poor decision. Take the time now to learn about your options before you need our services. We’d be happy to talk to you about our personalized approach to treatment.

Here are a few benefits you’ll discover about the services offered at Midland Physical Therapy:

  • We schedule initial appointments promptly. You’ll receive the same high quality of health care, but you won’t have to wait for treatment.
  • Our staff has the knowledge and expertise you need along with the friendliness and fun that keeps you motivated.
  • Midland Physical Therapy is conveniently located so you don’t have any excuse not to come.

Contact us and exercise your patient’s right to choose

At Midland Physical Therapy, we applaud a patient’s right to choose who provides their physical therapy. We know that you have options, so we need to earn your trust. We have served the Midland community for over 27 years. We have a proven track record that will put your mind at ease.

Starting today, exercise your right to information by checking us out. Then exercise your patient’s right to choose and request your physician to refer you to us when the time comes. Finally, contact us to schedule an appointment.

You’ll be in our capable and caring hands. Your right to be treated with respect will be honored, and of course, we’ll protect your right to confidentiality. Isn’t it time you used your patient’s right to choose?