A physiotherapists’ group on Wednesday suggested that practitioners can directly treat patients without needing a doctor’s referral, saying this could reduce pressure on Hong Kong’s health system.
Physiotherapists say this would give patients more flexibility when seeking treatment.
“We are not proposing to remove the current referral system entirely. We are proposing to provide the patients with an alternative,” a member of the group Marco Pang told RTHK.
“Right now, the current system is that if someone would like to receive physiotherapy treatment, that person must obtain a doctor's referral first,” Pang, who is also the president of the Hong Kong Physiotherapy Association, said.
Pang stressed the group had considered the opinions of multiple stakeholders, including those from the medical sector. In addition, he noted the group has suggested several restrictions on physiotherapists when treating patients without referrals.
“One of the restrictions is that there’s a [treatment duration] limit for those people who don’t have a preexisting diagnosis.
“We have a limit of 30 calendar days, or 10 physiotherapy visits, whichever occurs earlier. If [patients] want physiotherapy treatments beyond this period, we need to refer the patient to doctors to obtain a referral.”
He said physiotherapists are also required to have at least 2,000 hours of post-graduate clinical experience to provide direct physiotherapy service.
The proposal also stated that patients who have not been medically diagnosed by doctors must sign a non-referral consent form.
When asked about the risks of not seeking a doctor's diagnosis, Pang responded that all physiotherapists have adequate training in conducting initial screenings and that the current code of practice already requires referrals if abnormal symptoms are found.
Meanwhile, Pang noted that the government has been promoting primary healthcare to reduce the burden on the public health system. He urged the government to come up with a clear timetable to implement a referral-free arrangement.