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A Free Country

I love America. I know it’s not perfect, but I firmly believe we live in the best country on earth. We have freedoms that people in some parts of the world can only dream of. The right to freedom of speech. The right to assembly. The right to bear arms. We have the right to choose how and where to live our lives.

We can also choose our doctors. Even if your insurance company has a network of doctors that you must stay within in order to be covered, you still can choose which of those doctors to visit. When your doctor gives you a prescription for medication, or an order for lab work, or an order for an x-ray, you get to choose where to fill those orders. But there’s a secret that many doctors don’t want you to know. Lean closer, and I’ll whisper it to you – if you’re given a prescription for physical therapy, you have the right to choose where to get it filled!

You see, many doctors own their own physical therapy practices, and the profit from those offices goes back into their pockets. When these doctors have a patient that needs physical therapy, they will insist that the patient goes to their own PT office because that way, they’ll make money off the patient twice. This is called “self-referral for profit,” and it’s an ethically reprehensible practice because it puts the financial concerns of the doctor over the needs of the patient.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that every so often, I have to get up on my soap box about this. So many people don’t know that they can choose where to receive their physical therapy, and they allow themselves to be pressured into going to an office that they’d rather not. I’ll give you the example of a friend who I’ll call Carl…

Carl’s wife is a patient of mine, and since he often accompanied her to therapy, I’ve enjoyed getting to know both of them. When Carl told me that he was going to have hand surgery, I explained that hand rehabilitation was one of my specialties. He assured me that he would come to us for his physical therapy because he lived close by and really liked our staff.

The weeks passed, but Carl never came in for therapy. Finally I saw him on one of our recent snowy days. He explained, “I said that I wanted to come here for my therapy, but the doctor made me feel stupid for not going to his therapist there, so that’s where I’ve been going.” He shook his head, “I sure wish I could see you instead. I don’t want to drive clear across town today in this weather.”

This is a frustrating situation on many levels, but at the heart of it is a man who was bullied into receiving therapy in an office that was neither convenient nor accommodating for him simply because the doctor wanted to make a little extra money. And unfortunately, this happens all the time because self-referral for profit is not illegal (though it is opposed by the American Physical Therapy Association).

As a patient, it’s important not only to KNOW your rights, but also to STAND UP for them, especially when people try to take those rights away from you. You have the right to make a plethora of choices every day, including where to receive your physical therapy. I’m always happy to answer questions about patients’ right to choose, so email or call me anytime. You can also visit our website to learn more. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

P.S. Are you a former or current patient? Visit our place page on Google Maps and write a review!

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