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  • Coronavirus Update: March 30, 2020

    Practice guidance for pediatric physical therapy, a new volunteer resource, accelerated Medicare payments, and more.

    Practice Guidance

    March 30: APTA Offers General and Pediatric-Focused COVID-19 Guidance for PTs, PTAs, Students
    Two new resources from APTA can help PTs, PTAs, and students looking for more detailed, profession-specific guidance related to providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic: one focused on general PT management of patients, and a second that specifically addresses pediatric physical therapy.

    March 30: New COVID-19 Volunteer Resource Connects PTs, PTAs, Students With Facilities in Need
    APTA has launched a new online service that helps connect members of the physical therapy profession with facilities looking for volunteers. The service offers two points of entry — one for facilities in need of PT, PTA, or student volunteers, and another for PTs, PTAs, and students willing to offer their services, by way of the APTA Engage volunteer portal.

    From CMS

    March 30: 39 States Have Been Granted Medicaid Waivers
    As of March 30, 39 states have received federal 1135 waivers on a range of Medicaid requirements including prior authorization, provider enrollment, public notice mandates, and fair hearing request timelines. A CMS press released dated March 27 reported that 34 waivers had been issued; by the afternoon of March 30, the number had risen to 39.

    March 28: CMS Expands Accelerated and Advance Payment Program for Medicare 
    "CMS is expanding the program for all Medicare providers throughout the country during the public health emergency related to COVID-19," CMS states in a press release. "The payments can be requested by hospitals, doctors, durable medical equipment suppliers and other Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers." Qualifications include billing timelines and a requirement that the provider not be in bankruptcy, not be under active medical review or program integrity investigation, and not have outstanding delinquent Medicare overpayments.

    March 27: CMS Offers Long-Term Care Nursing Homes Telehealth, Telemedicine Toolkit
    According to CMS: "Most of the information is directed towards providers who may want to establish a permanent telemedicine program, but there is information here that will help in the temporary deployment of a telemedicine program as well." Resources include guidance on choosing telemedicine vendors, equipment, and software, as well as developing documentation tools.

    From the Department of Health and Human Services

    March 27: HHS Office for Civil Rights Issues Bulletin on Nondiscrimination Requirements
    The HHS OCR is reminding entities covered by civil rights authorities that the current COVID-19 national emergency does not change civil rights laws. "These laws, like other civil rights statutes that OCR enforces, remain in effect," the bulletin states. "As such, persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative 'worth' based on the presence or absence of disabilities."

    Visit APTA's Coronavirus webpage for more information and updates.

    APTA Offers General and Pediatric-Focused COVID-19 Guidance for PTs, PTAs, Students

    Topics addressed in the new resources include when a PT should tell patients to cancel an outpatient visit and factors to consider when providing remote school-based services as part of an IEP.

    Two new resources from APTA can help PTs, PTAs, and students looking for more detailed, profession-specific guidance related to providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic: one focused on general PT management of patients, and a second that specifically addresses pediatric physical therapy.

    The general guidance resource provides perspectives on issues such as when a PT should tell patients not to come in for their outpatient PT visits, as well as management of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in inpatient facilities, home health settings, experiencing post-intensive care syndrome, and in need of wound care. The guidance also includes information on preparation of physical space to reduce infection risk, use of PPE, and helping patients to stay active while at home.

    The pediatric physical therapy resource is directed at PTs and PTAs who manage these patients, especially in school settings. Topics include school closings and IEP services, remote learning, and a discussion of factors that need to be considered in providing pediatric physical therapy via telehealth.

    Both guidance documents will join frequently updated resources available on the APTA Coronavirus webpage, which include practice guidelines for physical therapy and COVID-19 in the acute hospital settings.

    New COVID-19 Volunteer Resource Connects PTs, PTAs, Students With Facilities in Need

    APTA's new service allows facilities to share their needs and creates matches with volunteers able to provide key services.

    The physical therapy profession has never backed away from a challenge. Now there's a new opportunity for PTs, PTAs, and physical therapy students to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic through volunteer efforts.

    APTA has launched a new online service that helps connect members of the physical therapy profession with facilities looking for volunteers. The service offers two points of entry — one for facilities in need of PT, PTA, or student volunteers, and another for PTs, PTAs, and students willing to offer their services, by way of the APTA Engage volunteer portal.

    Volunteers could serve in a wide range of capacities as areas around the world move through acute, response, and recovery phases: PTs and PTAs with appropriate experience can help to free up needed ICU beds and ventilators by providing treatments that can reduce some patients’ need for mechanical ventilation. As areas and people recover, there will also be a need for volunteers able to help individuals get back to work through improving mobility, function, and quality of life.

    Michel Landry, BScPT, MBA, PhD, a professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Division in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine and an affiliate in the Duke Global Health Institute, is coordinating volunteer-facility matches for the program. He can be reached through Twitter at @ptcovid19.

    For more insight into the pandemic, disaster response, epidemiological background, and the role the profession can play in care and recovery, check out this recording of a March 27 APTA FaceBook Live event at the bottom of the volunteer connection page.