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APTA NV Pres Letter on COVID 19

Message from APTA Nevada President, RJ Williams. - March 24, 2020

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Dear Nevada Members,

Much has evolved over the last several weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Unprecedented times have created much uncertainty and raised many questions for Nevada’s Physical Therapy providers and their teams. I want to take a brief moment to wish everyone the best of health and safety during this challenging time. I also want to provide support and information that may assist your ability to provide healthcare when appropriate.

Let me first start with acknowledging the fact that most of this information is changing day-to-day so please always seek the most current information possible when making decisions. Many questions have been raised on guidelines for running our businesses under Governor Sisolak’s decision to shut down “Non-essential” operations, the potential opportunities for telehealth, and relief efforts for employees and small businesses. As part of my professional role for my company, I have responsibility for support and oversight to small businesses in over 20 states. I am doing my best to keep up to date with the evolution of responses both federally and by state for these companies during these challenging times and for most a clear path through isn’t obvious. I want to provide all of you with some general information that may be of some help and recommend you stay in touch with APTA updates as well.

Patient Care

All of us have been forced into a challenging dichotomy, in the process of caring for patients is it better to provide care or abstain from care to reduce the risk of spreading disease? Is physical therapy essential? As recently state by APTA President Sharon Dunn and further supported by Homeland Security sent out by PPS (Here), physical therapists are considered “Critical Infrastructure” in the health care field. It states that we can do our part to minimize the burden and load into the medical system with patients suffering from pain and disability issues that would pull resources away from physicians fighting the disease. That comes with the understanding that care should be provided to patients under CDC guidelines for reducing risk of exposure. Generally, the sense around the country has been to move patients that don’t need essential intervention on site into some form of virtual visit…

Telehealth and Similar Options

Following the thought from above and what has been on many therapists’ minds, are we able to provide telehealth in Nevada? Please first get up to speed with NRS 629.510 & NRS 510.515 to understand our state regulations on providing this service. The biggest question revolves around your ability to get paid for this service. I cannot speak to every businesses’ agreement with their insurance providers but know that we are working as an association to lean into federally managed state providers to push this along. Cash may be an option for you as well. APTA advises using a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform. However, per the CMS Fact Sheet issued on March 17, 2020, "Effective immediately, the HHS Office for Civil Rights will exercise enforcement discretion and waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype, during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency." APTA is hosting a webinar on telehealth March 26th. (Information available here). Although we are gaining traction with payors; Tricare, some of the BCBS providers, traditional Medicare still does not allow payment for Telehealth for Physical Therapists. This is the time to take action. Congress is in a mood to implement safe options for seniors. Visit the APTA “take action”. This enables members, non-members and patients to easily send letters to federal lawmakers.

E-visits are a covered service for Medicare patients, however! APTA confirmed on March 20th that e-visits must maintain the standard as established prior to COVID-19. A full FAQ on e-visits can be found here. Another option for outpatient centers is the consideration of Medicare Part B in the home. This is different than home healthcare and requires changes to your location status when billing out your claims. Again, please verify and confirm your eligibility before changing your business operations to serve your patients.

To all our therapy providers and support staff around Nevada we are here with you during this difficult time. The association has promoted the phrase “Better Together” for several years now to rally our profession to a common mission. While we may physical NEED to be apart during this time lets work to keep our community strong by supporting and sharing information with each other.

Wishing everyone health and safety,

RJ Williams

APTA Nevada Chapter President


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