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‘Indiana Physical Therapy Practice Act’ scheduled to go into effect Monday, July 1, 2019.

Five years ago, 77-year-old Ned Wysong of Brownsburg was told the only way he would find relief from the severe arthritis pain in his shoulder – aside from regular doses of costly and largely experimental shots – was through total joint replacement surgery. Having suffered through complications from a past surgery, however, Wysong was reluctant to go down that path again.

So, he spent years suffering through pain and limitations that not only kept him off the golf course, but also made it impossible to perform seemingly simple daily tasks like reaching for a shelf or even putting on a belt.

Then last winter, he learned about a treatment option that physicians failed to recommend to him for his shoulder pain: physical therapy. And, thanks to Indiana House Bill 1038, legislation enacted back in 2013, he was able to seek direct access to physical therapy treatment (without the recommendation from a physician) for 24 days.

“Physical therapy was marvelous,” he said. “The doctors never suggested that I try it, but my son told me about it while rehabbing his knee after a partial replacement, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I’m glad I did because I’m now able to do things I haven’t been able to do in the last 5 years.”

Better Access to Physical Therapy

Starting July 1, others in Indiana will find it easier to take similar charge of their health care journeys thanks to the recent signing of the “Indiana Physical Therapy Practice Act” (SB 586) by Governor Eric Holcomb. Among other things, the bill extends the window during which patients can directly access physical therapy services – from 24 to 42 days.

For Real Rehab physical therapist Ursula Booth in Indianapolis, Wysong’s physical therapist during his shoulder treatments, the bill is an important step in empowering Indiana’s citizens.

“For me personally, I really enjoy the fact that patients can be more drivers of their health care in determining ways they want to use their health insurance,” said Booth, clinic director of Team Rehabilitation Physical Therapy’s Northwest Indianapolis practice.

“With folks paying higher and higher deductibles today, more out-of-pocket expense is being passed along to them,” she added. “What this bill allows them to do is utilize their health care resources to get direct treatment for musculoskeletal pains versus high-priced testing in hopes a physician may direct you toward a physical therapist.”

Better Access = Better Care

A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2017 supports Booth’s claim that such empowerment can save consumers money. The study concluded that patients with direct access to physical therapy for their neck and back pain paid an average of $1,543 less for care than those who visited a physician first – and with similar results.

Wysong saw similar savings while getting physical therapy for his shoulder.

“Cost-wise, physical therapy isn’t near the cost a major replacement is, with the hospital costs and the doctors and all that,” he said. Wysong added that even if surgery is still in his future, physical therapy was still much more effective in reducing pain and improving his range of motion than the experimental shots he received.

“The cost was about $1,000 per shot, and a series of three shots was supposed to last 18-plus months,” he said. “Mine didn’t last that long.”

Today, however, following several sessions of physical therapy, Wysong said his current goal is much more exciting than in the past, when his desire was to simply get through the day. Now, he hopes to someday join his son back on the golf course.

“He told me he went out and did some putting, and he’s definitely looking to try and pick it back up,” Booth said. “He doesn’t feel quite ready, yet, but I told him that when he does, I’m coming along to join him.”