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APTA, the association's Private Practice Section, and APTA Rhode Island developed guidelines that could help clinics stay safe during the pandemic.

Imagine you're a patient and it's time for your physical therapy appointment. You drive to the clinic, but instead of heading through the clinic doors, you text your arrival to staff, and then wait in your car until you receive a text telling you to come inside.

Once inside, your temperature and oxygen saturation are checked, and as quickly as possible, you're taken from the (magazine-free) waiting area to the treatment area. Your PT and PTA are probably wearing masks (you, too, most likely), and should you be directed to use cardio equipment, you'll be at least 12 feet away from any other patient doing the same. Afterwards you'll be encouraged to leave as quickly as you came. You might not even need to stop to work out your copay because your credit card is on file already.

Welcome to the PT clinic of the (very) near future — or, more precisely, the clinic as it might be today, according to APTA, the APTA Private Practice Section, and APTA Rhode Island. The association and its components collaborated on a new guidance document aimed at helping outpatient physical therapy clinics minimize the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The scenario above is one possibility based on the recommendations.

"Considerations for Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinics During the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis" envisions a clinic that takes infectious disease precautions that impact nearly every area of operations, from treatment to office administration. The resource is framed as a set of general recommendations, with the understanding that individual facility implementation may vary depending on mandated operational requirements, CDC guidance, and the clinic's own evaluation of cost vs. benefit.

The guidance document contains more than 60 recommendations around six broad areas: scheduling and workflow, safe workspace distancing (including treatment areas, waiting areas, and front desk operations), patient screening (prior to and while in clinic), staff screenings, considerations on return-to-work after COVID-19, patient triage (in-clinic versus telehealth), and cleaning standards.

Also recommended: reliance on important federal and APTA resources including CDC and OSHA guidelines, APTA online offerings, and information available through the APTA Private Practice Section. The pdf document includes hyperlinks to many of these additional sources of information.

The clinic guidance document joins a wealth of other resources on APTA's webpage devoted to COVID-19 and the physical therapy profession. In addition to practical guidance and links to additional information, the webpage also includes news articles and opportunities to advocate on behalf of the profession and its patients.


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