May 28, 2020

PPS sprang into action to provide members with resources when COVID-19 closures hit

When government-mandated closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic rippled across America, the effects were immediate. Restaurants and retailers were ordered to close, health care services deemed “elective” were halted, and millions of people across the country were ordered to stay home. These closures acutely wounded the physical therapy industry, necessitating furloughs, temporary closures, and even layoffs. In response, the Private Practice Section (PPS) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) kicked their content and resource teams into high gear, providing an impressive range of materials to help PPS members navigate the legal, regulatory, and financial aspects of operating, or closing, their physical therapy practices during COVID-19.

An Immediate Need

While the stay-at-home orders negatively impacted many businesses across the country, their effect on physical therapy practices was unique and immediate. The very nature of physical therapy is in-person contact to guide and train patients through therapeutic movements that address a health care concern. “It became very clear as the stay-at-home orders were being put in place that this was going to impact our members significantly,” said Carrie Stankiewicz, chief operations officer of PPS. “They're all small business owners, they own their own physical therapy practices. So, if they don't have patients coming to their clinic or if the environment is believed to be unsafe for patients and staff, then this was going to have major impact on them.”

On March 15, when stay-at-home orders started being issued, PPS assembled the 26-member COVID-19 Advisory Committee to help private practice owners navigate information about treatment, patient and staff safety, and small business issues that that would impact members and their businesses.

“The committee comprises members from the PPS board of directors, many of their committee chairs, and other members with special expertise in various areas to start synthesizing information for their members," Stankiewicz said.

All the members of the COVID-19 Advisory Committee are business owners who are making the tough decisions for their own employees, while also taking the time to help PPS members dealing with the same situations. “Each of them was managing their own business through this while at the same time producing this content on a daily basis. It's really remarkable,” Stankiewicz said.

Leveraging Existing Communication Channels

Stankiewicz and the PPS team created a dedicated web page on the PPS website to serve as the central hub of COVID-19-related content. Every day, content regarding pending legislation and how it affects PPS members, compliance guidance, financial management information, and more were added to the hub.

After several days, and recognizing the incredible need for a complete guide to navigating COVID-19 concerns, the committee greenlighted the production of a COVID-19 special issue of the association’s magazine, Impact. The 35-page, all-digital issue included interviews with members on how COVID-19 was affecting their practice at the moment, advocacy stories, general legal advice, a Frequently Asked Questions section about COVID-19, and more.

PPS President, Sandra Norby, PT, DPT, explains that the goal of the COVID-19 edition of Impact was to provide members with accurate information in real time as it’s vetted by their team of experts and intended to provide guidance on questions provided by PPS members.

Though the project was a tall order: for it to be timely, and to release it on the committee’s preferred deadline, all content had to be written, edited, designed, and ready for release in less than four days — an extraordinary feat for even the most experienced publishers.

In addition, understanding that a publication would be released and seemingly not updated immediately, content needed to be useful for readers in both the short and long term.

“Time was time was a major factor in getting content that was relevant, and that was an immediate for our members,” Stankiewicz said. “But, also, the content needed to be something that would not expire quickly.”

The Incredible Response to COVID-19 Content

The special issue and COVID-19 hub on the PPS website were made available to the general public for a limited time, allowing it to reach all practice owners and physical therapists seeking guidance during some of the most trying times in the industry.

Within its first week being released, the digital edition had over 50,000 page views and continues to climb.

After the COVID-19 edition came out, PPS was flooded with messages from current members saying that they would stick with the group forever because of the work they had done to keep them informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the course of the month after that release, we received so many comments from members who now say they’re PPS members for life because the resources that PPS was creating and releasing on a daily basis gave them what they needed, with the best information possible, to be able to make those really tough decisions,” Stankiewicz said.