On March 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists as essential critical infrastructure workers. However, the pandemic has significantly limited rehab therapists’ ability to treat patients, as social distancing presents unique challenges for providers whose care is predominately hands-on.
That being said, there are opportunities for rehab therapists to provide value to their patients in a remote or virtual setting—and many payers have relaxed restrictions that previously prevented PTs, OTs, and SLPs from delivering telehealth services. So, with telehealth becoming a more viable option that aligns with social distancing guidelines, Google recently implemented a Google My Business (GMB) update that allows healthcare providers to add telehealth appointments and other COVID-19 resources to their GMB pages. This allows PTs, OTs, and SLPs who are providing telehealth services during this time to be more accessible through Google Search and better highlight their services to patients—which, in turn, will hopefully help more rehab therapy clinics stay open so they can continue providing their patients with necessary care.
COVID-19 and Telehealth Links for Google My Business
Google My Business has been limited in its ability to provide support during this time, as Google is trying to ensure the safety of its workforce. This has resulted in a temporary freeze on reviews and delays when making edits to GMB pages. Still, the team at Google has helped ensure that local businesses can continue to provide essential services, and the new COVID-19 and telehealth links will help physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists more effectively reach potential patients.
Google has added two new profile links for healthcare and medical professionals:
- Telehealth info (a custom service category that allows businesses to provide a link that will appear directly on GMB profiles and Maps), and
- COVID-19 info, which allows businesses to link users to relevant information or resources regarding the pandemic.
While the COVID-19 info link might be a temporary feature that only lasts as long as the pandemic itself, the Telehealth info link likely will remain a service category post-COVID. These options will appear on the “info” tab when you log into your GMB profile, but Google has provided a set of instructions for health and medical professionals who would like to set these links up. You can access those instructions on this page.
Google is also allowing businesses to create and share a COVID-19-specific post. If you already use posts on your GMB page, this feature functions in a similar fashion, but you can use it specifically for any COVID-19 updates related to your business.
How to Create a COVID-19 post in Google My Business
Using the COVID-19 post feature in GMB:
- Sign in to your Google My Business account from your computer. If you have multiple clinic locations, be sure to open the location you’d like to make the post on (you will need to make a post for every location if you want to post for multiple locations).
- On the menu, click “Posts” and select the COVID-19 update tab. On this tab, you can update your listing to include:
- Updated hours of operation and temporary closures.
- Changes to business operations and services—including telehealth services.
- Changes to how the practice or clinic is being managed to ensure safety and hygiene.
- Support requests.
- Add relevant photos or videos. Any uploads must meet the size requirements of 400×300 pixels (10 KB size limit) at a minimum and 10000×10000 pixels (25 MB size limit) at a maximum.
Check out this resource for additional information regarding posting on your Google My Business page.
These updates from Google will help physical therapy practices and other healthcare providers offer up-to-date information regarding the pandemic, how it affects their business, and what they are doing to continue providing quality care while simultaneously ensuring the health and safety of their community.
If you have any questions regarding telehealth and how you can leverage it in your practice, check out these WebPT resources:
- Telehealth and Continuity: Strategies for PTs, OTs, and SLPs During Crisis (FAQ)
- E-Visit Flowchart for Medicare and Commercial Insurance (Free download)
- Telehealth Advocacy Templates for PTs, OTs, and SLPs (Free download)
- How to Navigate COVID-19: A Guide to Continuity and Telehealth for Rehab Therapists (Free download)