President Biden recently announced that the public health emergency declared in September will be extended for another 90 days. This means that there are a number of things that physical and occupational therapists need to stay aware of in order to provide the best possible care to their patients. One important change is the level of supervision PTA’s and COTA’s must have when providing outpatient services. In addition, telehealth may be used more frequently to provide therapy services in rural or underserved areas. By staying up-to-date on the latest public health emergency guidelines, therapists can ensure that their patients receive the best possible care.
Outpatient physical and occupational therapy clinics must maintain a different level of supervision over support staff, such as PTA’s and COTA’s, as compared to other rehab settings. Outpatient clinics are required to have direct supervision of support staff. Meaning a PT or OT must be present and in line of sight. This level of supervision is put in place to assure that if any assistance is needed from the PT or OT, they are right there to help. However, while we are still under the Public Health Emergency, PTA’s and COTA’s are allowed to have a less stringent level of supervision. This means that they can be treat patients in the clinic without a PT or OT there with them on site. But they must be readily accessible by telephone if needed.
Another way that therapists can ensure continuity of care for their patients during this time is by utilizing telehealth. Telehealth allows for real-time interaction between the therapist and the patient, regardless of location. This means that even if a patient is unable to physically make it to their therapy session, they can still participate in treatment from the comfort of their own home.
While most outpatient practices are thrilled to have a more lax level of supervision, it will not last. Once the public health emergency is no longer extended by the President, these “perks” will go away. Currently the public health emergency has been continued through April 30th, 2022.
One way we can try to make this a more permanent change in the therapy industry is to reach out to your state representative and let them know how important physical and occupational therapy is! Don’t stay quiet, voice your concerns about telehealth access and the level of supervision changing back as the public health emergency ends. Let them know how beneficial it has been to your patients over the past 2 years.
For more information on public health emergencies and how they may impact your practice, be sure to check out our blog regularly. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’re here to help.