Physical Therapy

4 Ways to Attract Direct Access Patients in Physical Therapy [2023]

Direct access patients are available to all physical therapists, all over the country. Every state has at least some form of direct access, allowing PTs to take the driver seat in their patients’ health (APTA).

Unfortunately, many PTs still make excuses for not marketing to direct access patients:

  • “We can’t see patients without a referral.”
  • “Our physicians send us plenty of patients.”
  • “Our payers make us obtain referrals anyway.”
  • “I couldn’t possibly charge cash for my services.”
  • “There’s no point in marketing to patients when their physicians make all the decisions.”

If you find yourself making any of these excuses, check out these myths about direct access by WebPT. If you do your research, you’ll find that there is an opportunity for direct access to grow your practice and an even BIGGER market of patients in need of your services.

Attracting direct access patients has its benefits:

  • Grow your practice
  • Increase your revenue
  • Skip the need for physician referrals
  • You create the initial plan of care for direct access patients
  • Combat declining reimbursements
  • Improve physician networks by referring patients to them
  • Improve your reputation in the medical community

With declining reimbursements, increasing competition, and inflation, it’s unlikely that you’ll see these benefits without expanding your practice to accept direct-access patients. The traditional referral-based practice model isn’t as conducive to success as it used to be. Click here to see the new business model that will position your practice to be a dominate player in the future of physical therapy.

So, rather than just sitting by the fax machine, hoping and waiting for physicians to send referrals to you, you can attract patients directly to your practice through the 4 methods below.

Inform People about Direct Access

According to this article, “Of all patients with neuromusculoskeletal issues, only about 8% seek out rehab therapy.” That means 92% of the patients who could benefit from physical therapy treatment don’t obtain it. This is a HUGE market opportunity!

A huge number of your existing patients don’t even know about direct access. Tell them! Let your patients know that if they have any friends or family members that could benefit from physical therapy that they don’t have to see a physician first.

Now, don’t go around town telling everyone they don’t need their doctors—you don’t want to burn your bridges with your existing physician referral networks. Just let people know, and if you provide patient emails, newsletters or other marketing materials, add in a blurb occasionally informing your audience that you accept direct access patients. Put information on your website about direct access as well for any potential patients exploring your website.

In short, patients can’t come directly to you unless they know they can!

Be Where the People Are

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the tip above. Marketing to direct access patients is only beneficial if you’re marketing where those patients are looking.

Do a little research to find out where your patients are looking for health information. With a large majority of folks looking for health information on search engines, it’s important to maintain a website full of helpful content. And no, a Facebook page doesn’t count as a website!

In order to stand out online, you’ll need to learn more about effective blogging, SEO and PPC and improving your reviews. If you can nail all these things, you’ll be the first thing people see when looking for health and wellness information on search engines.

Prove that you’re the Expert

Patients are becoming more and more involved in their health choices and CAN influence referrals. Whether you practice in a full direct access state or not, you should market directly to patients. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on physician referrals AND self-referrals (WebPT).

By providing expert care and showing physicians and patients in your area that you’re the best in town, you’ll tremendously influence the decisions of patients even if their doctor recommends a different PT. Perhaps you have great reviews online, or a patient has heard about you from a friend; when their physician mentions physical therapy… they will ask for you by name. You can believe those physicians will also be researching you once that happens.

If the patient has a great impression of you before stepping in the clinic—either through your online presence or word-of-mouth—the patient sees you as the expert! They may even skip the physician’s office and come right to you if they so choose. This is why it is important to sell the value of your care over anyone else’s and prove that you’re the most knowledgeable and trustworthy PT.

Be Part of the Conversation

You have hundreds of patients in your clinic every year that do a lot of talking with their friends and family. It’s possible a lot of them use social media on a regular basis as well. This is a major opportunity to get people talking about you.

Keep lines of communication open with your patients in every way possible: in person, by email, phone, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It could be as simple as telling your patients, “You know, you can come back and see me any time you need to without a doctor's referral.” Or maybe you write a blog all about direct access to your website and share it on your social media pages so people can learn from you at work, school, or in the comfort of their homes.

Show off and be a part of the conversation about your practice online. Highlight accomplishments within your practice or exceptional staff members, share health and wellness tips and provide expertise on issues your followers may face. Your patients and healthcare consumers will appreciate your input and expertise, and it will keep them talking about you.

There are a lot of different services you can provide these patients outside of traditional orthopedic therapy in your practice to build your cash-based business.


Did you know there is a business model you can implement in your private practice that will help you reach direct access patients, increase your cash sales and help you provide more holistic care? This business model is helping PTs like you all over the country prepare for the future and become dominant healthcare players for the years to come. Check out this video to learn more about this revolutionary business model.

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Resources You'll Love:


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WEBINAR: Strategies for Success in Private Practice



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