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CMS moves toward telehealth for physical therapy, FCC announces telehealth initiative, new resources available for physical therapy educators, and more.

March 31: CMS Rule Includes Therapy Codes in Telehealth, But Stops Short of Allowing PTs to Conduct Telehealth Services
Rule changes recently announced by CMS in response to the COVID-19 pandemic add codes commonly associated with therapy to those that may be delivered through telehealth, but CMS has made no related changes to allow PTs, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists to actually provide services through telehealth.

The apparent contradiction may be partly because the new rules were written prior to the passage of the CARES Act last week — the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package that granted CMS the authority to use waivers to expand the range of providers permitted to conduct services through telehealth. To date, CMS has not extended telehealth authority to PTs, OTs, and SLPs. But with coding rules now in place, such an expansion would be easier to implement quickly. APTA is pursuing the CMS disconnect.

March 31: Joint Commission Statement Supports Provider Use of Personal Face Masks From Home
The commission issued a statement supporting the use of standard face masks and/or respirators provided from home when health care organizations cannot provide access to protective equipment that is commensurate with the risk that health care workers are exposed to amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth

March 30: FCC Announces $200 Million Plan for Telehealth
The Federal Communications Commission announced a COVID-19 Telehealth Program to support health care providers responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As part of the CARES Act, Congress appropriated $200 million to the FCC to support health care providers’ use of telehealth services in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. If adopted by the commission, the program would help eligible health care providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services.

Physical Therapy Education

March 31: American Council of Academic Physical Therapy Establishes Collaboration Center
A new offering from ACAPT offers possibilities for open-source resource sharing and communication among the clinical education community.

Advocacy

March 31: Tell Congress That Improvements in Telehealth, Reimbursement Should be Part of Pandemic Response
The COVID-19 relief package signed into law last week wasn't the last word on temporary changes that could help blunt the impact of the pandemic: There's another package being worked on in Congress right now, and the physical therapy community needs to make its voice heard. Visit a dedicated page in the APTA legislative action center to quickly contact your lawmakers and remind them to help the profession respond to the pandemic by establishing telehealth for PTs and addressing reimbursement reductions.

Research

March 30: Case Fatality Rate for COVID-19 Near 1.4 Percent, Increases With Age
A new study published in The Lancet shows that both hospitalization and fatality rates in patients with COVID-19 are higher in older patients. In an analysis of patient data from inside and outside of China, researchers estimated that it takes 17.8 days on average from onset of symptoms until death, and 24.7 days until hospital discharge. The fatality rate in China was 1.38%, but substantially higher in patients older than 60 years of age and as high as 13.4% among those aged 80 years and up.

March 13: PubMed Central Provides Links to Open-Access COVID-19-Related Research
The online archive is providing links to all research that has been designated as open-access by various publishers.

In the Media

March 31: U.S. Stockpile of PPE Nearly Gone
From Reuters: "An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the U.S. government has nearly run out of protective gear that could be useful to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to two officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

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


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