What is Your Clinic’s Coronavirus Plan?
Over the past few weeks, the Coronavirus has grown from a news story that is impacting the lives of people halfway across the globe to a changing health situation that you need to think about – and prepare for in your own practice. Before deciding on new methods to help prevent the potential spread of this virus, it’s necessary to understand exactly what Coronavirus is – and what it may mean for you, your clinic, and your patients moving forward.
What is the Coronavirus?
Many news outlets are reporting different facts and figures about the Coronavirus, how it is spread and who is likely to contact it, so the best place to stay updated about the true nature of the spread is by visiting the CDC’s website, because they offer valuable information – as well as printable sheets that can be posted or even handed out to patients if they have questions. These sheets are updated as more information comes in, which will be helpful for you physical therapy’s clinic, too.
Some fast facts about the Coronavirus:
- This is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person in cases of close proximity. The virus is spread when an infected individual coughs or sneezes.
- The COVID-19 virus can also spread through physical contact with an object that has been “tainted” when an ill individual has coughed or sneezed near it.
- Symptoms of this strain of the Coronavirus include fever, shortness of breath and coughing, and in some cases, these can worsen to pneumonia, organ failure and even (in very severe cases) death.
- Those that have a higher risk of contracting this illness include people over the age of 50, those in already poor health, people that have traveled to a “high risk” area where the virus is widespread, or those that have come into contact with people that have the illness already.
- There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, but treatments include similar methods to providing care for those suffering from the flu, as well as taking precautions like staying out of contact with those who are sick and washing your hands often after being out in public.
Is the Coronavirus Affecting Physical Therapy Clinics and Practices?
Yes. The short answer to this is that this virus is very much impacting physical therapy professionals and practice owners – and in many different ways. Medical facilities like hospitals, pharmacies and standalone clinics are relying heavily on Telehealth practices to provide care to their patients, but is this even possible for physical therapists? The answer is that it depends.
For many physical therapy providers, it is necessary to be in the same room as clients in order to carefully observe and guide them through their session’s exercises, but with the spread of this virus and the fear that some clients have, they may want to look into other options to continue receiving their care. One of the biggest barriers for patients electing to receive their physical therapy this way is knowing whether or not the sessions will be covered in this manner. Telehealth is reimbursable in some states depending on the insurance company, but even if it is not reimbursable in your specific state, there is always the option of offering Telehealth visits to patients as an out of pocket cash payment. Patients will appreciate the ability to continue their plan of care and be monitored virtually instead of missing entire weeks of their physical therapy sessions. To learn more about how to set up and deploy Telehealth in your clinic, schedule a call with Dr. Marla Ranieri through Calendly.
Since some patients will be hesitant to come into the clinic for treatment, being willing to make changes to the way you serve your clients is always a good idea, especially when a health situation like this has grown so much, so quickly. For example, many physical therapy clinics and networks have changed their policies to account for an increase in cancellations by waiving fees if the cancellation is related to an illness, especially one of a respiratory nature. Combating the spread of this virus depends on taking precautions, but it also requires educating the general population on the best courses of action that they can take while trying to help keep themselves healthy.
How to Plan for the Coronavirus Impacting Your Practice
First, you should be prepared for higher than usual numbers of cancellations when it comes to in-office patient appointments. This may be distressing, but in the long run, it will be beneficial for your practice to work with patients in order to keep them on board with you rather than penalizing them for prioritizing their own health, and in turn, the health of your practice’s staff members. Though you’re a physical therapy based practice, giving them information about their health will show patients that you care about them as individuals and are interested in their well being, even on the days that they are not attending sessions with you.
In addition to this, being willing to work with patients to reschedule appointments or switch from in-office to in-home or Telehealth services (as discussed above) is a good plan. Knowing exactly what it is that you’re offering to your patients and expecting from your staff by staying up to date with the latest information on the virus and the best ways to stay healthy.
Consider adding a Coronavirus specific FAQ section on your site that answers common questions, as well as ones that are unique to your practice and geographic location. Some common questions that your patients may have include:
- What happens when an appointment has to be cancelled or rescheduled?
- What precautions is the clinic or facility taking in order to screen visitors, employees and patients for the virus?
- Has the clinic implemented new measures in order to safely disinfect all surfaces and equipment?
- Should I only avoid an appointment if I am experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, or should I reschedule or cancel for general illness, too?
- Does taking any sort of recent vacation mean that I should avoid coming in, or does this just apply to places where the COVID-19 virus has been widespread?
- How long should I wait to reschedule?
Though just a general list of commonly asked questions, this will be a good way for you to ensure patients that you’re taking all of the necessary precautions because you value their health. The overall goal of physical therapy appointments is to help people regain their abilities and become stronger and more capable, and no one will be able to accomplish this if they end up getting sick.
Another consideration to make is letting your staff members know that it’s not just the patient’s health you’re looking out for – it’s theirs, too. While they aren’t doctors or nurses, they are still responsible for their patients… and if they, themselves are not healthy, they cannot expect to provide quality care to others. In preparing your clinic or facility for patients, you should also take another look at rules and regulations that are in place when it comes to your employee health and safety. Educating your staff to ensure that they know what they could potentially be dealing with is essential because they will be the ones acting as the liaison between patients and hospitals, and will often be the ones providing information when asked.
Learn more about the Coronavirus and finding more efficient ways to connect with your patients by utilizing the BetterPT website and looking to the Better Consult imagery for more information on Telehelath (see above). These resources will not only provide valuable information, but they will do so in a simple to use format. With news and updates about this virus changing by the hour, it’s important to provide patients with easy access to the information – and the health care – that they want and need. Since the Coronavirus is likely to persist and spread as time passes, finding the best ways to provide consistent, quality care is just as imperative as helping patients and employees find simple and effective ways to keep themselves from compromising their own health.