Patients in Hawaii Gain Direct Access to Physical Therapist Services

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, January 6, 2011 — Patients in Hawaii now can be evaluated and treated by physical therapists without first having to obtain a physician referral. With the passage of new State Board of Physical Therapy regulations, Hawaii becomes the 46th state to achieve direct access, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). While direct access laws vary from state to state, with some states having more limitations, patients in Hawaii will have unrestricted access to physical therapist services.

"After more than 10 years of hard work, we are elated that the rules have finally been passed," said Ann Frost, PT, president of the Hawaii Chapter of APTA. "Many people contributed to this process by serving on the State Board of Physical Therapy, attending Board meetings, attending the hearing, and educating the public and the physical therapy community about these much needed updates. We have been impressed by the incredible attention to detail, resulting in optimal language that moves physical therapy practice forward into the 21st century. As health care reform continues to progress, Hawaii's people can now enjoy the ability to receive physical therapy in a more cost- and time-effective manner."

Prior to implementation of the new board regulations, patients could only be evaluated by a physical therapist without referral. The new regulations, which also allow for treatment without referral, bring Hawaii in line with the vast majority of other states that have allowed direct access safely and effectively for years.

The enactment of patient direct access in Hawaii is especially meaningful for one resident of Oahu, Betsy Kendall-McCreary. McCreary is the daughter of Florence Kendall, PT, who was a leading pioneer in the physical therapy profession. Kendall was licensed to practice in Hawaii and, as a consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army, evaluated the Army programs at Tripler Army Medical Center and Schofield Barracks on Oahu. Kendall also helped enact one of the first direct access laws in the country by advocating for legislation in Maryland in 1979 that removed the referral requirement. McCreary testified in support of the proposed board regulations during a public hearing on November 9, 2010, in Honolulu.

"You can be sure if Florence Kendall was alive today at age 100, she would be 100% thrilled with the enactment of direct access in Hawaii and wonder why it took so long," said McCreary.

In addition to removing the burdensome physician referral requirement, the new regulations make other improvements and revisions to the practice of physical therapy. The regulations were signed December 3, 2010, by outgoing Governor Linda Lingle and went into effect December 9, 2010. 

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 74,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.

The Hawaii Chapter of APTA (HAPTA) is a non-profit professional organization serving more than 200 member physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Its mission is to be the principle membership organization that represents and promotes the profession of Physical Therapy in the state of Hawaii.