This past week, the numbers in Indiana, relating to COVID, have been trending in the right direction; lower infection rates, lower hospital admissions and fewer deaths. At this time, it could be easy to let our guard down a little, but the reality is, the threat that COVID poses to us, is still very real. My good friend is her burying mother this Saturday. Her mother died of COVID. The father-in-law of a long-time APTA Indiana leader, entered hospice earlier this week, allowing him to peacefully complete life, after the impact of a COVID infection. One of our own members, is in a critical medical condition due to post COVID infection cardiac complications. I don’t need to go on because we all get that the situation with COVID is still extremely serious. We need to continue to socially distance, wear masks, hand wash and get our vaccines!
Many of you have asked whether physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) can be involved with administering the COVID vaccine. Per our current Physical Therapy Practice Act, we as PTs and PTAs are not covered to provide vaccines. In communicating with Amy Kent, Director of Legislative and External Affairs Indiana Department of Health (IDOH), she said:
- The IDOH is not at the stage of vaccination to have enough doses to run mass vaccination sites. So, they haven’t run into a shortage of providers to assist with vaccine delivery. The IDOH is still determining what their staffing needs will be across the state when vaccine eligibility is expanded to larger groups.
- There may be some local options available depending on if a PT/PTA is looking for employment or willing to volunteer their time. She suggested that anyone can reach out to their county health department to see if they need help at their vaccine delivery sites. The IDOH is trying to secure funding for local health departments to hire contractors, but for now they are relying on local partnership and volunteers. It was also suggested that PTs and PTAs could reach out to any of the hospitals or FQHCs that are currently vaccinating (check the map HERE. to see if they need relief help. Many of the staff at the hospital sites have been working non-stop for the past -7 weeks and would welcome some relief.
- The third option, if someone is interested in exploring volunteer opportunities now, or in the future, the Department of Health has partnered with the Bowen Center to help match volunteers to locations needing assistance through this sign up – Hoosier Heroes Rise Up. Any information that is shared is used to connect healthcare workers with a facility for either vaccine administration, registration assistance, or both. Once matched with a facility, the facility will reach out directly to coordinate all necessary logistics.
We have been off to a busy legislative start in 2021. Senate Bill 305, authored by Senator Messmer, if passed, would allow Indiana to join the Physical Therapy Compact. This passed out of the Senate Committee hearing 10:0 last week, had no amendments added to it during the second reading this Monday and passed out of the Senate by a vote of 46:1 on Tuesday afternoon. I want to recognize and thank Valerie Strunk, PT, DPT, for providing testimony during the Committee hearing on SB 305. The bill will now move to the House. Rep Lindauer has agreed to sponsor the bill in the House. At this time, it is too early to know to which Committee that this bill will be assigned. As we know more, I will share.
There are currently two bills in the Statehouse being heard related to telehealth. On the Senate side, SB 3 would allow a physical therapist to provide telehealth. Despite strong efforts, we were not able to sway the author of this bill to add PTAs to the language of the bill. SB 3 has passed the Senate and now makes its way to the House. The second telehealth bill, HB 1286 is broader and includes PTAs. We have provided testimony on both bills. A huge thank you to Deanna Proimos, PT, DPT, for her testimony. We will continue to watch both bills as well as several others closely over the next few weeks and keep you informed.
If you haven’t seen the news already, please take note of an upcoming webinar on March 3 at 7:00 pm ET, Defending the Documentation. This webinar, coordinated by the APTA Indiana Practice and Payment Specialist, is for those interested in learning how your therapy documentation can impact a medical review for Medicare payment. The presenters, Wisconsin Physician Service (WPS) Government Health Administrators (GHA), will have an interactive session on Medicare guidelines and appropriate documentation of skilled therapy services. To register, click HERE.
Emily Slaven, PT, PhD, Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy
President, APTA Indiana