March 19, 2020
There is still no prohibition that you should cease treating patients in your clinic. Even in communities, such as Alameda County in California, where shelter in place orders have been imposed – healthcare operations are exempt from this prohibition.
Here are some guidelines that we think might help you to decide if and when to provide physical therapy care to your patients:
- With the underlying premise to “do no harm,” you and your patient(s) must determine if the risk to providing care outweighs the risk of not providing care at this time. We encourage you to reduce community exposure and cancel non-urgent, face-to-face visits where a delay would not result in an adverse outcome.
- If you do choose to see patients, conduct proper screening procedures for your staff, patients and those individuals accompanying patients to their appointments. Those failing basic screening questions should be redirected back to their home. Identify high risk individuals using the information provided by the CDC.
- If you do choose to see patients, create a social distancing protocol and appoint a staff member to manage and maintain social distancing whenever possible in your clinics. This would involve utilizing private treatment rooms and modifying schedules to reduce patient-to-patient interactions.
- If you do choose to see patients, maintain the highest sanitary levels via frequent handwashing/sanitizer use and surface disinfection. Inform patients of your procedures via a posted notice at the time of check-in as well as on your website.
- Follow guidance from federal, local, and state agencies that may influence how you handle any of the above suggestions.
- The financial implications of your decisions for your clinic should not be a factor in your decisions regarding treatment of patients during this pandemic.
While providing patient care via telehealth is technically legal for PTs and PTAs in Washington, it is not always paid for by payers. Restrictions on payment for PT provided via telehealth may ease up as this crisis continues. We are advocating for that. Please visit our telehealth web page for guidance and updates as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
Thank you to our colleagues at APTA and from the California Chapter of the APTA for sharing the guidance they have provided to their members, which has helped us craft this update.
I hope you all stay well!