Healthcare in our country faces significant challenges in the future including an aging population requiring more healthcare services and a shortage of primary care physicians. These clinical personnel are an essential group within our healthcare system as they sit on the front lines for individuals seeking care. Many of these patients will be managed optimally at the primary care level with a smaller percentage requiring referral to outside specialists, tests, and procedures. Unfortunately, many patients cannot access our primary care physicians secondary to long waits or inability to find a local physician.
Nearing the end of the Vietnam War era the United States Army began to utilize Physical Therapists to manage non surgical musculoskeletal pain. This decision was made in part to free up surgeons, specialists, and primary care physicians to manage more severe cases of musculoskeletal injury, as well as, acute and chronic medical diseases. As musculoskeletal patients began seeing Physical Therapists first, with direct access, the health care system was re balanced getting the right patients to the right provider without delay. The cost and clinical effectiveness of this healthcare triage system prompted other branches of the military, Fortune 500 companies, and hospital systems to implement this system of patient self access to Physical Therapy services. Direct access has since been implemented in the majority of states throughout the country including Colorado.
As many in our country face limited or delayed access to health care services, direct access creates one solution to reduce patient volume in our primary care physician offices. Allowing both primary care physicians and Physical Therapists to be utilized in the most effective capacity possible.