APTA Responds to The Washington Post on Primary-care Doctor Shortage

June 29, 2009

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the June 20 article, "Primary-Care Doctor Shortage May Undermine Reform Efforts: No Quick Fix as Demand Already Exceeds Supply," by Ashley Halsey, III.

Maintaining a high quality health care delivery system is essential to a healthy and productive society. When barriers exist that force consumers to utilize health care providers in an inefficient way, costs rise and efficiency falls.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) strongly believes that creating policies that allow patients to gain access to the right provider at the right time, and investing in comprehensive funding initiatives that build health care professions' education and infrastructure will help ensure an efficient and productive health care delivery system.

Rehabilitation, which includes physical therapy, is an essential element of health care coverage for people with acute or chronic health conditions that may cause limitations in their activity and restrictions in their participation within society. Physical therapists' ability to impact a patient's health, safety, and welfare, with referral to other health care providers as necessary, has been proven at the state level. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have eliminated the physician referral requirement for patients to access physical therapists for an evaluation.

Ensuring an adequate physical therapist workforce can aid in chronic disease management, including type 2 diabetes and obesity, conditions which put an enormous strain on the nation's health care system.

Eliminating restrictions to physical therapist care will go a long way toward reducing unnecessary regulations, improving access, and building models of delivery for rehabilitation that best serve patients, health care providers, and physicians.


R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association