During the pandemic I have used telehealth to enhance my practice, from patients who didn’t want to come to therapy because of covid, to patients who were at high risk due to preexisting conditions, to patients from rural areas who would have to travel inordinate distances in order to come to appointments, however this tool is set to end come January 1st.
With the declaration of a national emergency in 2020 due to the spreading of a novel virus the president gave power to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to make changes to better enable providers to continue to provide healthcare, among these was the decision for CMS to reimburse providers for services provided through telehealth. A 2020 APTA report showed that the number of PTs providing telehealth consultation increased from 2% prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to 48% by July of 2020. While the majority of physical therapy visits continued to be conducted in person tele-visits provided the ability to continue to provide care to those who were at risk or cautious about returning to the clinic due to the ongoing pandemic.
When meeting with legislators regarding this issue most were aware that there had been an emergency authorization for providing care, but many were not aware that the ability for physical therapists to provide these services to patients with Medicare and Medicaid was set to expire at the end of the year. While some private insurers have already changed their policy on telehealth action is needed from congress in order to make these changes permanent. Telehealth has been instrumental for me to connect with some patients who would have otherwise felt uncomfortable coming into the clinic, and it is important that we as therapists, continue to be able to utilize this tool to meet the needs of our patients. As such it was great to be able to meet with our legislators and explain to them how this issue affects me, my patients, and their ability to continue to get high quality healthcare.
Dr. Forrest Andres-Beck, PT, DPT
Forrest Andres-Beck is a retired professional ballet dancer and physical therapist in the twin cities. He graduated from the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in 2021 with his Doctrate of Physical Therapy.