We can’t deny the fact every single person on this planet has been affected by the pandemic in some way or another.
As healthcare providers who work predominantly hands-on with our patients (aka, the “physical” in physical therapy) we have several factors to consider while moving forward: let’s start with patient behavior.
Depending on where the patient lives in the country may determine to some degree their behavioral tolerance to how you are proposing to treat them as things are reopening.
It’s undeniable (and understandable) that their comfort levels may have changed.
This is NOT meant to minimize the horrible outcomes of what has been occurring worldwide, but we as physical therapists are obligated to care for those who are in need of our services in a safe and effective manner. This means that we must march on doing what we were trained to do: helping improve our patients’ physical health and quality of life.
The best anyone can aim to do is to work for the greatest good of all, and if we take into consideration some of these looming factors now (ahead of their impact) then we can lead by example on how to be a responsible private practice owner.
Therefore, we thought it would be best to contemplate our future in physical therapy by posing some questions that need answers in order for us to have clarity on how things might look for us in the near future:
- Is there going to be an agreed-upon set of environmental safety standards that all private practices are going to need to comply with from now on? (most likely this would have to come from CDC and OSHA)
- Are we going to have to change the HHS policy covering Telehealth providers to include PT’s & PTA’s and will payers be reimbursing in parity with in-office visits? (This would take an act of Congress since the Social Security Act would need to be amended)
- Is patient behavior going to be more accepting of supervised physical therapy training sessions and less accepting of hands-on manual therapy sessions?
- (Big question) IS Telehealth here to stay as a service arm of the average physical therapy practice?
- Are the days of working in a team approach seeing (for example) 2 patients per hour over because of the need for social distance?
- Is now the time to make the change to a shared-risk compensation model?
- Can physical therapy clinics evolve into more of a full-service healthcare clinic much in the same way that pharmacies have become more full-service facilities to their public?
Asking yourself and your team some of these questions will help enable you to predict and prepare for what lies ahead for your practice.
While not everything in physical therapy is changing, much of it is adapting to new requirements, standards and expectations.
Don’t ever forget: we do what we do for the patient. Our whole purpose, the heart of our profession if you will, is to enable people to live more comfortably and pain-free.
Do what you need to do to keep this goal at the forefront of your priorities. Do this, and you will be a better therapist, owner, and member of your community for it.