As Kentucky plans to take steps toward reopening on Monday, the first wave of businesses allowed to take this step are non-emergency healthcare providers, but a stringent set of rules will mean a whole new normal for many medical offices.
Medical facilities allowed to reopen must provide one of the following non-emergency healthcare services:
- Outpatient hospital care
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic care
They must also be able to protect patients and workers from potential transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Throughout the pandemic, many providers have been serving their clients through telehealth video conferences, while only those with urgent medical needs were allowed face-to-face consultation. On Monday, Kentucky can expect to see physical therapists, healthcare clinics, medical officers and optometrists reopening for non-urgent services once again. Gov. Beshear still encourages the use of telehealth services when possible, and there are still many restrictions offices must follow.
For clinics, that means eliminating waiting rooms and asking patients to wait in their cars outside. For chiropractors and physical therapists, that means touching patients only with disposable non-latex gloves and discarding them between appointments. Everyone entering each building should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and physical contact should be minimized whenever possible. While dentists are included in the gradual path to resume services, they have to meet additional criteria set down by the Kentucky Board of Dentistry.
"It's certainly going to be a major change," said Dr. Kevin Jones, a physical therapist and owner of Active Physical Therapy in Newport. "It's not going to be as laid back as it used to be. Again, I've never worn gloves with a patient interacting with them in terms of hands-on treatment. Most people would prefer that not to be the case, especially with a massage. But I think, moving forward, we're going to glove up with everyone."
Active Physical Therapy also has two locations in the Columbus Area, and Jones said he hopes Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will include physical therapy in his plan to gradually resume medical services soon.
Jones said that, although they plan to reopen, he expects telehealth video conferences to stick around and become a much bigger part of all types of medicine going forward.