APTA Releases Final Report on Impact of COVID-19 on the Physical Therapy Profession
Over the course of the public health emergency, APTA surveyed its members to monitor how the pandemic was affecting the physical therapy profession. The association's final report, "Three Years of Physical Therapy in a Public Health Emergency: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Physical Therapy Profession" is now available. The data shows that while the physical therapy profession has largely returned to its pre-pandemic norms, there are some areas of the workforce that may be changed forever. APTA also created an infographic that summarizes some of the report's most significant findings.
APTA Presses CMS to Clarify Post-PHE Facility-Based Telehealth — CMS Reverses Course, But More Must Be Done
The national COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, but several major questions around the post-PHE use of telehealth by therapists in a range of facility settings remain unresolved. While PTs, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists in private practice settings (and some facility-based settings) are allowed to continue to provide services under Medicare via telehealth after May 11 (and most likely until Dec. 31, 2024), therapists in certain facilities that use a particular type of claim form — the UB04 — seemingly are no longer eligible. The problem affects settings that include skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and rehab agencies. Hospital-based outpatient departments were also affected until May 13, when CMS responded to advocacy from APTA and other organizations and announced that telehealth would be permitted in that setting through 2023. APTA continues to press CMS for answers regarding the remaining settings — in the meantime, providers in those settings should take a careful approach.
Podcast: What You Need to Know About the End of the Public Health Emergency
A new APTA podcast covers the post-PHE landscape for telehealth, post-acute care, HIPAA enforcement, PTA supervision, and more. Listening time: 17 minutes.
New in Research
Health Records Analysis of 28 Million Patients Reveals Multi-Organ Impact of Long COVID
One of the largest studies of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 has revealed what authors believe are risk patterns for patients who go on to experience long COVID. The analysis, based on electronic health records of 11 million patients in the New York City area and 16.8 million patients in Florida, showed higher hazard ratios among those with long COVID for respiratory problems, dermatologic problems, cardiovascular problems, nervous system problems, and what researchers labeled "general symptoms" that include malaise, fatigue, dizziness, and joint pain. Authors write that the findings suggest that long COVID is a multi-organ disease. An additional finding: Incidence of long COVID was significantly higher in the New York City area than in Florida. The article was published in Nature Communications.
Home-Based Exercise Program Associated With Improvement of Long COVID Symptoms
Researchers exploring the effects of a home-based exercise program on 50 individuals who had severe COVID-19 infections found that the program reduced many of the symptoms that lingered for months after the infection, improving overall health-related quality of life. The intervention was a personalized 16-week aerobic and strength training program involving three 60- to 80-minute sessions per week, including one weekly session supervised remotely by a physical trainer. Exercise volume for the aerobic training sessions ranged from multiple bouts of walking 10 minutes a day to more than 50 minutes a day of jogging. Strength training sessions were made up of three to five sets of eight to 15 repetitions per exercise. By the end of the program, participants reported better quality of life scores related to physical functioning, general health, and vitality compared with the patients in the control group. Improvements over the control group were also noted in the 30-second sit-to-stand test, as well as muscle weakness and myalgia. Findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
CDC Shuts Down Parts of COVID-19 Tracker In Conjunction With End of PHE
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended several elements of its data tracker offerings on May 11, including aggregate cases, deaths, and community transmission levels. The most recent available seven-day averages for hospitalizations, April 30-May 6, is 1,351, a 6.5% decrease from the previous average. Weekly deaths were 323 as of May 6, compared with a weekly total of 1,286 a month earlier. The U.S. death total from COVID-19 is now estimated at 1,127,928.
HHS Issues Fact Sheet on End of Public Health Emergency
In response to the end of the national COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services posted a fact sheet that covers what has and has not changed since the PHE was lifted. Topics include telehealth, COVID-19 testing, and HHS accomplishments during the emergency.
In the Media
Takeaways From the End of the Public Health Emergency
From CNN: " The national public health emergency around COVID-19 officially ends in the United States on Thursday, May 11, more than three years after it was first declared. What does all this mean about the threat COVID-19 poses to people? Is it right to end the worldwide and U.S. states of emergency, or is it too soon? What have been some key lessons learned during the past three years? What investments must continue to prevent and treat this coronavirus? And what should people who remain at high risk for severe COVID-19, and their family members, do?"
End of the PHE: What Medicare Beneficiaries Need to Know
From Fortune: "The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11 has created dizzying changes for Medicare beneficiaries. Whether Medicare will or won’t cover certain health care costs may now depend on whether you are in traditional Medicare or a private insurer’s Medicare Advantage plan, want remote monitoring for a chronic condition, and need rehab in a skilled nursing facility. Here’s what Medicare beneficiaries need to know about their new world of health insurance coverage."
Exploring the Mysteries of Long COVID Brain Fog
From NPR: "As the Biden administration ends the COVID-19 public health emergency, millions of Americans who contracted the disease continue to suffer from symptoms associated with long COVID. Neuropsychologist James C. Jackson says people with long COVID can suffer from symptoms like exhaustion, shortness of breath and disturbed sleep. Some of the most troubling symptoms are neurological: struggling to remember things, to focus, even to perform basic daily tasks and solve problems. He notes while the scientific community rallied in response to COVID-19, there's been less urgency in the response to long COVID, leaving patients and families on their own to find solutions."
It's Getting Harder to Find Out About COVID-19 Prevalence at the Community Level
From the Los Angeles Times: "Dwindling data make it more difficult to assess the virus’ trajectory in specific areas and for people to adjust their attitudes and behaviors accordingly — a potentially unsettling development for those who remain most at risk of falling seriously ill. And the public knowledge gap may widen in the months ahead, as metric collection becomes increasingly decentralized following the termination of the national COVID-19 public health emergency and more residents lose access to resources such as no-cost testing."
APTA offers multiple resources on COVID-19 and long COVID, including a long COVID clinical summary, links to research articles, a report on the pandemic's effects on the physical therapy profession, and more. APTA also offers consumer-friendly information about physical therapist treatment for long COVID.