Illinois bill that would provide physical therapy telehealth regulations gains support in House


Maddie McCarthy


Illinois lawmakers approved a bill during a House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee meeting last week that would clearly define the terms in which physical therapists (PTs) can practice telehealth.

Rep. Lawrence Walsh (D-Joliet) said House Bill 5087 is an initiative from the American Physical Therapy Association, which supports telehealth regulation and services in order to expand care access.

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“[The bill] provides for physical therapy through telehealth services in order to address access issues to care, enhance care delivery, or increase a physical therapist’s ability to assess the patient’s performance in the patient’s own environment,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the bill requires initial physical therapy evaluations to be performed in-person by a licensed PT, unless there are documented reasons as to why the evaluation should be performed virtually.

HB 5087 also states that a PT or PT assistant practicing telehealth would have to be able to provide in-person care in the state, and that a patient would be able to request and receive in-person care at any time during their treatment.

There are no laws prohibiting or restricting physical therapy services through telehealth in Illinois, and the Illinois Telehealth Act includes physical therapists in its list of providers who can provide virtual services. However, the Illinois Physical Therapy Act does not currently define telehealth services, and there have been concerns with the lack of regulation.

“The genesis of [the bill] came out of rulemaking from the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) that resulted in either some opposition or lack of regulatory authority,” Walsh said.

Walsh told State of Reform that the emergency order signed during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic put rulemaking responsibility surrounding telehealth on state agencies. He said the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR)—which oversees the Illinois General Assembly and reviews rulemaking put forth by state agencies—shot down some rules proposed by IDFPR because they were too broad.

“There needed to be stronger statutory language for [JCAR] to proceed with that type of  rulemaking, and so that is what we did with this physical therapy telehealth [bill],” Walsh said.

The Illinois Physical Therapy Association wrote a letter in support of the bill, noting the legislation would provide more regulation for telehealth services, and therefore improve patient safety. 

“Physical therapy is a hands-on profession and safeguards governing the use of telehealth should be enacted or the level of service delivery could be compromised, outcomes diminished, and the patient population could suffer if the use of telehealth becomes a primary means for delivery of physical therapy care.”

—IPTA letter of support

IPTA said physical therapy regulation  is a matter of public safety, and would prevent unlicensed individuals from providing telehealth services marketed as “physical therapy.” The bill would ensure that only PTs licensed under the Illinois Physical Therapy Act would be allowed to provide virtual physical therapy treatment.

The association also said the proposed rules would allow the state to uphold a patient’s choice for in-person or virtual care under the Telehealth Act.

“I think it’s an avenue to help people that may not be able to get to a specific physical location … If they’re working on a rotator cuff and they can work with a therapist via Zoom, I think it’s cost-saving and may help people be more lucrative with their time.”


The committee approved HB 5087, and it will be scheduled for a  second reading in the House.

Readers can learn more about health-related legislation at the 2024 Illinois State of Reform Health Policy Conference, which will be held on May 29 at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park. Those interested can register here.

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