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New PT practice guidelines for COVID patients in acute hospitals, Cigna opens up telehealth for PTs, a call for postacute care COVID preparedness, and more.

New PT practice guidelines for COVID patients in acute hospitals, Cigna opens up telehealth for PTs, a call for postacute care COVID preparedness, and more.

Practice Guidance

March 26: New Practice Guidelines for Physical Therapy and COVID-19 in Acute Hospital Setting
A new set of recommendations for physical therapy related to COVID-19 in the acute hospital setting acknowledges the necessity of involvement of PTs well-trained in respiratory physical therapy, but cautions that facilities should be judicious in their use. The recommendations have been endorsed by APTA, the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Section, and the Academy of Acute Care Physical Therapy, albeit with a few caveats that not all of the Australia-based guidance will apply in the U.S.

The recommendations are limited to PTs and "other relevant stakeholders" in acute care settings who are providing care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The guidance includes more than 60 recommendations ranging from shift planning to the specific types of PPE PTs should wear.

March 26: Cigna Adopts Telehealth Policy for Physical Therapy
Insurer Cigna announced a series of temporary changes that open the possibility for telehealth by PTs, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. The measures allow for reimbursement of PT services that include codes 97161 (evaluation, low complexity, 20 minutes, telephone or virtual), 97162 (evaluation, moderate complexity, 30 minutes, virtual), and 97110 (therapeutic exercises, two unit limit). Codes must be appended with a GQ modifier and billed with a standard place-of-service code. Cigna recommends that providers follow CMS guidance on the use of a specific software program but states that it will not require the use an specific software for now.

March 30, 3 pm: APTA Hosts Facebook Live Event, "Implementing Telehealth in Your Practice STAT"
APTA will host a Facebook Live version of its sold-out March 26 webinar that featured a panel discussion with experienced telehealth PTs providing insight on how they implement telehealth in their practices.

From U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

March 25: HHS Says That Providers Can Share Patient's COVID Status With First Responders
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance that the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows health care providers to share protected health information on an individual who has been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 with first responders without the individual's permission under certain circumstances. Situations under which HIPAA-covered entities can share this information with law enforcement, paramedics, and other first responders include but are not limited to: when the information is needed to provide treatment; when they are reporting to public health authorities; and when first responders may be at risk of infection.

In the Media

March 25: JAMA Viewpoint Stresses the Need to Address Postacute Care Challenges Related to COVID-19
Authors of an opinion piece in JAMA warn that postacute care facilities may be overwhelmed in much the same way hospitals could soon experience as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses through the population. They stress the need for immediate capacity-building, and urge policymakers to implement additional policies such as paid sick leave for staff, enhanced Medicare rates, and reimbursement for hospital-at-home models "at parity with institutional hospital care."

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

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