How Your Front Office Should Interact With Self-Referred Patients

Jan 18 | , , , , , , , , ,


Direct access, or the ability for patients to see a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral, is a great strategy for your clinic. While your therapists may know this practice exists, they may not be sure how to explain the policy to clients or what it means for business. Your employees aren’t alone.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, 70 percent of people think a referral is necessary for a physical therapy evaluation. This myth can keep patients away from the services they need. To increase your clinic’s number of self-referrals, as well as your patients’ knowledge of direct access, there are specific tactics your front office should use to interact with these kinds of clients:

Be friendly
The front office will be the first point of contact for self-referred patients, either by phone or by walk-in meet-and-greet. It’s important for your staff to be upbeat, cordial and attentive. A prospective client’s first impression can mean a returning customer or someone who looks elsewhere for his or her self-referral. Providing considerate and conscientious care will make possible patients feel more comfortable at your physical therapy practice.

“Making an increased effort on the client’s behalf shows that your practice cares about a patient’s well-being.”

Share knowledge
Self-referred patients may not know all the intricacies of direct access, so it’s up to your employees to give clients the most informative material on the service. Provide them with information about your state’s direct access policy and certifications in addition to your clinic’s method for payment. Having this data will allow therapists to better explain the ins and outs of direct access to clients.

Your practice can make this information available over the phone or even through your website, making it easier for possible clients to grasp the concept of the direct access policy.

Go above and beyond
It’s a basic request to ask for the name of a patient’s primary care physician and insurance information, but it’s vital to let prospective clients know of the possible need for a referral depending on your state’s requirements and the patient’s health benefits. Have your staff explain what essentials your location’s direct access laws demand so the patient understands the policy better.

While it’s normal to verify a person’s insurance and check if a referral is necessary, your practice can go the extra mile by inquiring about the client’s schedule. That way, if a referral is required and the physician wants to see the patient, your staff already knows when the client is available. Your front desk personnel can either directly connect the patient and the doctor to set up an appointment or can offer the physician a time that will work for the patient for future scheduling.

Making an increased effort on the client’s behalf shows that your practice not only cares about providing good customer service to a patient, but also his or her well-being. A positive intention can make possible customers feel more engaged with your staff and may encourage them to repeatedly visit your clinic.

Self-referred patients can bring additional business into your physical therapy practice. By providing them with the appropriate information about direct access and the requirements of their benefits program, your clinic can keep these clients returning for care.


This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.