What is Urgent Care Physical Therapy?

Written By: Dan Russo, PT/OT Manager

Greetings!  As a Physical Therapist, I take great pride in working for Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin.  There are many things that make GHC-SCW a special place to work and receive care as a patient. One of those things is Urgent Care Physical Therapy (UCPT).  Until the early 2000’s, physical therapists could only see patients if they had orders from a doctor.  Starting in 2007, GHC-SCW physical therapists could see patients without physician orders, what we call “Direct Access.”  In 2011, GHC, took this to another level.

On August 29, 2011, GHC-SCW launched a pilot program that offered Direct Access Physical Therapy (PT) in our Urgent Care.  The program was developed to better meet the needs of our members.  We found that roughly 20% of patients coming to the medical urgent care were there for musculoskeletal (MSK) concerns (ankle sprains, low back pain, shoulder pain or other injury).

There is a large amount of research that demonstrates better long-term outcomes at lower cost when treatment for a MSK concern starts with PT.  It can also save a great deal of time.  Traditionally, patients would have 1-2 visits with a doctor, possibly have x-rays or other imaging, and/or receive prescriptions for medications.  Very often, after this was done, the patient was then referred to PT.  UCPT allows patients to avoid several visits and start care in PT.

Urgent Care PT provides same day or next day appointments for MSK issues or injuries that have started in the past two weeks. PTs address symptoms in the neck, back, shoulder/arm, hip, knee/leg or ankle.  Patients do not need to see their Primary Care Provider (PCP) prior to most PT appointments.  Patients who wish to start their care in Urgent Care PT can all GHC Nurse Connect, (608) 661-7350.  Nurses will screen your symptoms to determine if Urgent Care PT is right for you. 

The Urgent Care PT Program is on the cutting edge of PT innovation and has attracted attention from many organizations in the nation.  The therapists who work in Urgent Care PT are trained to recognize injuries and/or conditions that are outside of the scope of PT practice.  If after completing an evaluation it is determined that you need medical evaluation or intervention, the therapist will refer you to the appropriate medical provider