There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered life. Besides the tragic deaths and illnesses wrought on communities around the world, one of the biggest effects of the pandemic has been on businesses, especially businesses that involve person-to-person, hands-on care, such as medical facilities and physical therapy clinics.
Occupations and businesses that require human touch have seen appointments and revenue plummet, in some cases by up to 70%. But other businesses have adapted to the situation and worked around the restrictions, which vary by state.
In Louisiana, where in early August there were up to over 34,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (and growing by the day), physical therapy and injury rehabilitation businesses like Cajun Sports Med have had to dramatically restructure their services and rethink the way they care for their patients.
As a result, we can view physical therapy in Lafayette, LA as a microcosm for the rest of the country, where doctors, therapists, and nurses continue to navigate one of the most challenging public health crises in history.
The following is a list of how many PT clinics and other healthcare providers are working around the COVID-19 restrictions….
~ Nurses call clients in advance of their appointment to ensure that have no symptoms (e.g., running a fever, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, fatigue, difficulty breathing, breathing difficulties, etc. [While a significant percentage of covid-positive people are asymptomatic, filtering and screening for symptomatic patients still reduces the risk of transmission.]
~ Keep a close watch on community transmission rates and conduct a daily and weekly assessment of local estimates. [Cities and communities around the country have wildly varying COVID-19 infection rates; your local transmission numbers should influence your company policy.]
~ Consider reducing office hours or restricting appointments to only the most needy patients. Many patients will naturally seek to reschedule or postpone an appointment unless it’s an emergency. In that case, it’s also possible that treatment could be given virtually, though that’s a bit trickier when it comes to physical therapy.
~ Nurses stagger the schedule so that patient appointment times are further apart. Not only does this limit the amount of time patients are sitting in the same waiting room lobby together, it gives an exclusive feel that will make patients and clinicians feel more at ease.
~ Sterilize all equipment and utilize personal protective equipment (PPE) religiously. This is a no-brainer. Especially when human touch is involved in a medical environment (like physical therapy), it is critical that any surfaces, treatment tables, exercise balls/mats, etc. are thoroughly sterilized after every use [includes hand sanitizer, alcohol spray, compostable towers, single-use capes, etc.]. Additionally, both patients and therapy clinicians should always wear masks and gloves.
COVID-19 restrictions vary by city and state. In early summer, Louisiana moved into Phase 2 of its response, which aimed to loosen business restrictions. But physical therapy companies like Cajun Sports Med are still working closely with health officials to reduce the risk of transmission.
It’s a balancing act for many clinics, especially those that involve human-to-human touch. However, with the right precautions and careful day-to-day monitoring, it is possible to treat patients and be safe.