Despite the fact that numerous states are in the reopening phases following the safer-at-home orders and closures of many types of businesses, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic due to COVID-19.
As a physical therapy practitioner, it is imperative that you know and understand the guidelines issued by the American Physical Therapy Association.
Not only will these guidelines aid in ensuring that you and others that work in your facility remain safe, they will also ensure the safety of the patients that you serve and their loved ones. In this guide, we will briefly expound on the measures that you can take to ensure optimal operations while the coronavirus is still spreading.
Consider the Continuation of Telehealth Services
Physical therapists have made many adjustments during the previous safer-at-home orders – one of which is telehealth.
While it is true that the government on the federal level and those in your state have likely lifted many restrictions and now allow for the opportunity to serve your patients on an in-person basis, it is also still true that the coronavirus is still in existence, it is still spreading, and there is no confirmed treatment or current vaccine for the illness.
The openings are based on the fact that we have successfully flattened the curve, which will reduce the strain on the healthcare system. Additionally, the openings are required in order to ensure economic stability.
Because of all of this, you should consider continuing the offering of telehealth appointments for those that are most vulnerable to complications from a COVID-19 infection and those that are not comfortable attending their physical therapy sessions in person.
Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid are still providing coverage for these types of appointments due to the pandemic. Additionally, it is likely that your facility is still under restrictions on the number of people that can be in your clinic at one time.
There are many creative methods to utilizing telehealth to assist patients with their conditions. By far, these types of appointments are considered to be the safest for everyone involved.
Integrate Strict Screening Processes
The next way to prepare for reopening during the pandemic is to integrate strict screening processes for both your staff and the patients that will come to your clinic. As a part of this process, you should include the following questions:
- Have you had contact with a person that has been diagnosed with the coronavirus?
- Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19? If so, do you have a medical release from your primary care provider?
- Has an official informed you that you may have been exposed to the virus in the past two weeks?
- Have you felt ill in the past two weeks? If so, what symptoms did you experience and are you currently feeling unwell?
- Have you recently traveled?
In addition to screening questions, you should have a process in place that screens individuals as they arrive at your facility.
Each person should be asked the above-listed questions. You will need to assign one of your staff to sit at the entrance of the clinic and perform the screenings as individuals arrive.
If the individual answers the questions in such a way that they are considered to be low-risk/no-risk, you should then take their temperature to determine if they have a fever.
If the person is found to have a temperature of at least 100.0, they should be advised to seek medical guidance and not allowed into your practice – this includes those that are part of your staff.
If the individual does not have a fever, you may then provide them with hand sanitizer, a mask, and any other type of personal protective equipment that you desire and allow them into your facility.
Preparing Your Facility
The next step in preparing your physical therapy practice for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic is to take the steps necessary to completely prepare your facility.
You should start with your waiting area.
This area should be marked off so that your patients are at least six feet apart.
You should make certain that hand sanitizer and the appropriate personal protective equipment is in place for both your staff and your patients.
At all times, deep clean and disinfect all areas of your facility.
You should also put into place a hand washing policy for the staff and the patients.
If you utilize a cleaning crew, ensure that they come in more frequently and use the most comprehensive cleaning procedures possible.
In addition to this, you should make certain that you have a process in place that limits the hand usage of papers and writing utensils.
You should also put into place a process that will allow your practice to safely handle payments issued by your patients.
You may integrate card scanners and set up an online payment system.
The goal is to ensure that there is as limited touch and exposure as possible within your practice. This way, it is much more difficult for infectious agents to pass from one person to another.
To be on the safe side, you should review any liability insurance that you possess on your practice to determine your coverages and contact the insurance provider to determine if any additional type of coverage is warranted through the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a general guide for physical therapy practices on the topic of reopening during the pandemic. This is not intended to be interpreted as legal advice. You should make certain that you make modifications during this time that is appropriate for your practice and the services that you offer, therein. All states will have unique guidelines. In addition to this, your county may also have specific guidelines. You must adhere to those set forth that apply directly to you and your practice.
For legal matters, contact a legal professional. Continue to utilize your best clinical judgment in all the various situations in which you are presented.