3 Legal Challenges Affecting Dry Needling Practice in Florida

Dry needling is a treatment often used in Florida that’s facing some legal issues right now. Physical therapists usually do this treatment. It involves putting thin needles into the skin to help with muscle pain and movement problems.

People in Florida have been using dry needling since the 1970s. It became popular because it works well and doesn’t have many side effects. It’s a favorite choice for many people in Florida who have chronic pain.

But, as more people started using it, it also started facing more legal problems. This article will talk about the three main legal issues that are happening with dry needling in Florida right now.

The Legal Landscape of Dry Needling in Florida

Dry needling in Florida has a unique legal landscape. The practice is regulated by specific laws and regulations designed to ensure safety and standardize practices.

Current Laws and Regulations

As of now, the laws governing dry needling in Florida are outlined in section 486.117 of the Florida Statutes (F.S.). This statute sets forth the standards that physical therapists must meet to perform dry needling Florida Physical Therapy Association. It’s worth noting that only licensed physical therapists who meet these minimum standards are legally allowed to practice dry needling.

  • Minimum Standards: Physical therapists are required to adhere to certain standards to perform dry needling. These include obtaining patient consent and integrating dry needling into a documented plan of care Casetext.
  • Licensing Requirements: Only licensed physical therapists who meet the minimum standards can practice dry needling Florida Physical Therapy Association.

Recent Legal Changes and Their Implications

The landscape of dry needling in Florida has seen several transformations. Important legal shifts have been made, shaping the way this treatment is practiced today.

  • Bill HB 467: Enacted in June 2020, this legislation made it legal for physical therapists to take courses on dry needling Myopainseminars.
  • Rule 64B17-6.008: This rule, effective from April 19, 2021, requires therapists to meet specific requirements within 60 days if they intend to practice dry needling Florida Board of Physical Therapy.
  • 2022 Dry Needling Report: A report published by Florida Health in 2022 provides an overview of the number of licensed therapists performing dry needling in the state of Florida Health.

While there haven’t been any substantial changes affecting dry needling in Florida in 2023 yet, it’s crucial to stay updated as the situation continues to evolve.

Challenge 1: Scope of Practice

The scope of practice is a critical aspect of any healthcare profession, including dry needling. It defines the procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare practitioner is permitted to undertake in keeping with the terms of their professional license.

Understanding The Controversy

The scope of practice in dry needling is a subject of ongoing debates, primarily due to varying opinions on who should be permitted to perform the procedure. As highlighted by NCBI, the main point of contention is often whether physical therapists should be allowed to perform dry needling or if it should exclusively be performed by acupuncturists, who typically have more extensive training in using needles.

This controversy has led to legal disputes in certain states, as various professions lobby for changes in laws and regulations. According to Musculoskeletal Key and Legal Reach, these altercations can confuse both patients and practitioners as they attempt to navigate a landscape that can significantly differ from one state to another. Restrictions on dry needling in some states have even led to it being labeled as ‘illegal’, further complicating matters for those involved in this field.

How Scope of Practice Affects Dry Needling

The scope of practice has a direct influence on the application and execution of dry needling. It dictates who can perform the procedure, ultimately impacting patient access, quality of care, and potential advancements in the field.

  • Patient Access: According to Home CEU Connection, the scope of practice might limit some patient’s access to dry needling. For instance, if only acupuncturists are allowed to perform the procedure, patients may have fewer providers to choose from.
  • Quality of Care: The quality of care can also be affected by the scope of practice. If physical therapists are permitted to perform dry needling, they must receive appropriate training to ensure patient safety, as recommended by the American Physical Therapy Association.
  • Future Development: The scope of practice can shape the future growth and evolution of dry needling. More comprehensive scopes could lead to increased research and innovation in this field, as noted by the American Physical Therapy Association.

Challenge 2: Licensing and Certification Requirements

The licensing and certification requirements for dry needling in Florida are stringent to ensure that practitioners meet the necessary standards of practice. These requirements are imperative for maintaining the quality of care and patient safety.

Current Licensing Procedures

In Florida, the licensing procedures for physical therapists performing dry needling involve several steps. According to the Florida Physical Therapy Association, these include a minimum of two years of licensed practice as a physical therapist. In addition, practitioners need to complete 50 hours of face-to-face continuing education from an accredited entity.

  • Years of Practice: A physical therapist must have at least two years of licensed practice under their belt before they can perform dry needling.
  • Continuing Education: A requirement of 50 hours of face-to-face continuing education from an accredited entity is also necessary.
  • Patient Sessions: As per Florida Statute § 486.117, completion of at least 25 patient sessions of dry needling performed under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist is required.

Criticism and Challenges with the Existing System

Despite the clear guidelines, the existing licensing and certification system in Florida faces some criticisms and challenges. The most common issues revolve around the differences in training between physical therapists and acupuncturists and the potential difficulty for physical therapists to meet the requirements.

  • Differences in Training: According to the Florida Board of Acupuncture, licensed acupuncturists in Florida are required to complete over 2,700 hours of supervised instruction, which is significantly more compared to the requirements for physical therapists.
  • Difficulty to Meet Requirements: The requirement of 50 hours of face-to-face continuing education and completion of at least 25 patient sessions under supervision could be challenging for some physical therapists to achieve.
  • Patient Consent: As per the Florida Statutes, dry needling cannot be performed without patient consent, adding another layer of responsibility for practitioners.

Challenge 3: Insurance and Liability Issues

Insurance and liability issues are significant challenges for dry-needling practitioners in Florida. These concerns involve both the practitioner’s professional liability insurance and the patient’s health insurance coverage.

The Role of Insurance in Dry Needling Practice

Insurance plays a critical role in the practice of dry needling. According to Uwinsure, practitioners must ensure they have appropriate malpractice insurance coverage. This insurance protects practitioners from potential lawsuits related to their practice. Furthermore, having the right insurance coverage is necessary to maintain the trust and confidence of patients.

On the other hand, patients’ health insurance also determines their access to dry-needling services. As per the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as of January 2020, Medicare covers acupuncture, including dry needling, for chronic low back pain within specific guidelines. However, the coverage for dry needling varies among private insurance companies, which can affect the accessibility of this treatment for some patients.

Common Liability Claims and How to Avoid Them

While dry needling is generally considered safe, some potential risks and complications could lead to liability claims. Practitioners must be aware of these risks and take necessary precautions to avoid them.

  • Inadequate Training: According to the Mander Law Group, inadequate training can result in complications and potentially increase the risk of medical malpractice claims.
  • Informed Consent: Before performing dry needling, practitioners must ensure they have the patient’s informed consent. Failure to obtain this could lead to liability claims.
  • Insurance Coverage: If a patient’s health insurance does not cover dry needling and they were not informed about the out-of-pocket costs beforehand, they might file a claim against the practitioner.

Practitioners can mitigate these risks by ensuring they have adequate training, obtaining informed consent from patients, and clearly communicating the potential costs of the treatment.

Untangling the Needling Knot: The Road Ahead

In light of these challenges, it’s clear that navigating the world of dry needling in Florida can be a tricky business. From mastering the licensing requirements to understanding the role of insurance, practitioners have a good deal on their plates. 

Additionally, the fear of liability claims can add an extra layer of complexity. But, with proper training, transparent communication, and comprehensive insurance coverage, these hurdles can be overcome. As we move forward, it’s crucial to keep working towards making dry needling more accessible and safe for everyone involved.

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