We, as your association leadership team wanted to take a moment to reach out to you during this time of uncertainty. We hope that you all are well and taking care of yourselves and your families.
Your state association has been working to stay informed of the issues related to COVID-19 and how they may impact our members and those they serve. The information is being produced at lightning speed and is ever-evolving. We want to make you aware of where you can go to get the most up to date information related to the Coronavirus on a national level as well as the most recent information related to physical therapy practice.
For information related to the outbreak here in the U.S., please seek your information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA includes information on how to prepare your workplace to maintain safety. The WV DHHR website houses information related to COVID-19 in WV, including number and location of cases, travel restrictions, guidelines for the public, among other information.
In regards to physical therapy specific information, the APTA has created a Coronavirus resource page that houses up to date information and guidance on managing your practice in the current crisis climate. This page is updated regularly, sometimes multiple times per day. We encourage you to seek information directly from this site. Our WVPTA webpage is also set up to update APTA News as it comes out. This can be found at the bottom of our webpage under APTA News Now.
We, as an association, have taken steps this week to advocate that physical therapy be listed as an “essential service” in any future state government emergency declaration. We understand that there are a variety of opinions about the definition of essential and whether or not our clinics should voluntarily close. The actions that were taken to advocate for PT services as essential were to allow access to services for those who may have conditions that require care to prevent long-term complications (such as recent surgical patients and others). We recognize that some patients can and should be rescheduled during this period of social isolation. Each clinician should make the decision for themselves as to which patients need priority care at this time based on the therapist’s clinical judgement. We advocate that those clinics that remain open use proper measures to ensure the safety of patients, the community, and themselves. Please follow this link to a statement from APTA President, Sharon Dunn, who states so well the conflict that we find ourselves in. We also understand that some clinics have now elected to decrease work hours, lay off or furlough staff due to decreased patient volume. This is very hard to hear, and we want to send our support to those practices and the employees affected. We, as do others, hope that clinics are back up and running at normal speed again soon.
In light of those clinical caseload changes, the WVPTA is also advocating for the ability for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants to engage their patients via electronic means and receive compensation for that service. This could mean e-visits as outlined in our last blast from CMS, or via telehealth through the WV BMS definition. We will be communicating in the coming days with
Governor Justice, as well as with commercial payers of our services, advocating that they cover physical therapy services provided through electronic means to remain engaged with patients and to assist them further in their recovery. Currently, Medicare and WV Medicaid are allowing the practice. The APTA recently held a webinar (which was recorded and can be found at the link below) to try to help clinicians with some of the details of providing e-visits including billing codes and modifiers.
They have also provided template letters that individuals can use to communicate with government officials and commercial payers on the issue of telehealth. This information is available to members and non-members and can be found at this link. One specific publication that may be particularly helpful to you is an FAQ page addressing questions that have been submitted by members regarding this issue. You can find that specific information through the main resource page or directly via this link. Please continue to check these APTA resources regularly for updates.
Please know that your association is working to support you during this time. We wish you all health and safety as we work through this challenge together.
WVPTA Board of Directors