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​Pennsylvania Helps Psychologists and Dentists Provide Services to Patients as Part of COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

Posted: 05/13/2020
Industries: Health Care

On May 8, there were two new developments in Pennsylvania that help psychologists and dentists and their respective patients as the Commonwealth continues to take steps to reopen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, Pennsylvania enacted a new law expanding telepsychological services. Second, Governor Wolf released revised guidance for dentists to provide elective dental services.

Health care providers need to regularly monitor legislative and regulatory changes and new guidance documents at the state and federal levels to ensure they are aware of new developments during the COVID-19 pandemic and as phased reopening begins.

Pennsylvania Law Expanding Psychology Services

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 67 to expand the availability of psychological services through telemedicine. The new law permits Pennsylvania to join the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (the Compact), which allows psychology services to be provided across state lines in certain circumstances. Under the Compact, licensed psychologists are able to apply to practice telepsychology and conduct temporary in-person, face-to-face practice in other states that also participate in the Compact. Twelve states have enacted statutes to join the Compact and many other states have legislation pending to do the same.

Governor Wolf stated: “The COVID-19 crisis has reduced Pennsylvanians’ ability to meet in-person with a therapist during a time when they are facing life changes, stress and grief. Senate Bill 67 will allow Pennsylvanians to more easily access psychological services for mental wellness while supporting physical health through social distancing.”

Pennsylvania Issues Revised Guidance for Elective Dental Services

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine released revised dental health care guidance as part of Governor Wolf’s strategic, phased COVID-19 reopening plan. The revised guidance removes the prohibition on dentists providing non-urgent and non-emergent dental procedures.

When providing elective dental procedures, the guidance states that all Pennsylvania licensed dentists should adhere to the following protocols:

  • All patients should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to arriving at the practice.
  • Social distancing should be maintained while at the practice.
  • Patients should wash or sanitize hands frequently and wear a mask when not undergoing treatment.
  • Pursue treatment with the appropriate level of personal protective equipment per Occupation Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and CDC guidance.
  • Perform non-aerosolizing, non-urgent and non-emergent care only if proper PPE is available for all dental care practitioners.
  • Procedures that create a visible spay containing large particle droplets of water should not be performed except as a last resort when clinically necessary.
  • For patients who have, or are suspected of having, the COVID-19 virus, airborne precautions should be followed including the use of an isolation room with negative pressure and persons entering the room should wear an N95 filtering disposable respirator.
  • Teledentistry should continue to be employed when possible as patients may be able to be treated virtually using antibiotics and pain medication.

The revised guidance notes that if the infection control protocols provided by OSHA and the CDC cannot be followed, the dentist should not perform the procedure.

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr’s lawyers regularly assist health care providers, practices and facilities with regulatory compliance and with responding to the business and legal challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For questions about how this article affects you individually, your practice or your facility, please reach out to the authors.

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