Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy: COVID-19

Topics: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Summary: Services like physical, occupational and speech therapies are often a critical part of the recovery process following an injury or illness. Find out how medical facilities offering these services can adapt in the time of the coronavirus crisis to ensure patient and staff health and safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on businesses in all industries across the country. From restaurants and retail shops to offices and manufacturing plants, the crisis has changed the way businesses operate, perhaps permanently.

Safety is top of mind for everyone these days, and many question how safe public spaces and businesses are. This includes not only places like the local bars and grocery stores, but also hospitals, medical facilities and healthcare centers.

Is it Safe to go to Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy during the Coronavirus Crisis?

At the beginning of the pandemic, many hospitals postponed non-essential surgeries to ensure they would be able to accommodate a potential surge in coronavirus cases. As states flattened the curve and the numbers of new cases began to taper off, they began to reschedule those surgeries. With many surgeries, additional treatments such as physical and occupational therapies are a critical part of the recovery process.

Both physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) often require medical professionals to come into close contact with the patient. Entering one’s personal space and touching increase the risk of being exposed to respiratory droplets that could potentially carry the virus. While many individuals may be eager to participate in the therapies that could improve their quality of life, they may also be extremely apprehensive about these in-person appointments.

Likewise, speech therapy services, used to improve communication for children with speech disorders or for adults following an injury or illness, generally are conducted on an in-person basis, increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.

Are Therapy Services Essential during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The American Occupational Therapy Association states: “AOTA considers occupational therapy services as essential because they are a key part of client care plans and may often be the reason a client is receiving care in a certain setting. Delays in rehabilitation have been associated with worsening symptoms and adverse events for children, adolescents and adults.”

Physical therapy has also been deemed an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic. Both the patients visiting an outpatient physical therapy or occupational therapy center, and the medical professionals who work in them, must take extra precautions to help ensure social distancing guidelines are continually met.

How to Provide Safe PT, OT and Speech Therapy Services during the Coronavirus

Therapy services are a central part of many individuals’ care plans and play a significant role in the recovery process. These services are vital for improving mobility, easing pain, completing tasks and communicating effectively.

Following CDC guidelines, healthcare and therapy centers can take the following steps to ensure the health and safety of all patients:

Communicate clearly with patients

All patients should understand that safety measures are in place to keep their health, and the health of staff members, a top priority. Signage should be placed conspicuously around medical centers regarding the guidelines currently set in place, like social distancing rules, face mask requirements, handwashing policies and more.

Screen all patients and employees upon arrival

Part of the safety measures should include screening all those who come through the doors. Provide temperature checks and ask the standard questions regarding COVID-19, including whether they’ve had any common symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath, have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, have traveled internationally recently, etc.

Implement proper social distancing and stagger appointments

Spacing out appointment times will help limit the number of patients on-site throughout the day and make it easier to ensure social distancing guidelines are met, especially in common areas like waiting rooms. The number of visitors allowed in with patients should be limited to one per visit, and administrative staff should be trained in these new scheduling procedures to allow transition time in between sessions. Remove seats from waiting areas and place signage on the floor by reception desks to establish safe distances between patients who are in line to check in.

Require face masks for both patients and employees

Create a face mask policy that requires anyone in the building to wear a cloth mask at all times. Many states have now mandated that face masks be worn in all public places, and healthcare centers should be no exception.

Increase cleaning and sanitization efforts

All frequently touched surfaces should be disinfected several times throughout the day, including any equipment used by patients. If certain pieces of equipment cannot be sanitized, it should be eliminated from the care plan until further notice.

Offer telehealth options if possible

Telehealth services have been growing in popularity in recent years, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these services have been promoted as a way to deliver acute, chronic, primary and specialty care. Telemedicine offers an option to provide care services while safely social distancing and reducing exposure to the virus. The CDC recommends telehealth services can be used in a hybrid approach with in-person care for physical and occupational therapy treatments.

AmTrust is Here for our Healthcare Insureds

The healthcare industry, including private practices, dental offices, allergists, physical, occupational and speech therapists and more, is one of the top classes AmTrust writes. From Workers’ Compensation coverage to loss control resources, we can help address the common risks medical facilities face.

AmTrust created a dedicated resource center to assist small businesses as the country reopens and a library of coronavirus resources to help our appointed agents and small business insured stay informed, safe and healthy. For more information on our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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