How does Telemedicine compliment Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is the process of helping patients rehabilitate a part of the body or the body as a whole as a result of disease, injury or surgery. Rather than using medication, physical therapy applies the use of heat treatment, massage, and most importantly, exercise, to get patients back to doing the activities they love and restoring their former quality of life.
Many physical therapists feel that their patient outcomes are simply not optimal, for several very valid reasons. Due to a nationwide shortage of PTs, physical rehab facilities are typically booked full with appointments, leaving practitioners pressed for time with each patient. This forces therapists to focus on having their patients perform rudimentary exercises without sufficient time to explain the movements and how or why they are important to their success.
Only seeing patients once or twice a week, totaling a very small percentage of overall time means that physical therapists don’t know for certain if or how effectively the patient is continuing his/her care at home, and this is a vital part of the success of any PT program. Having no contact with patients between appointments means there is a lot of room for error. Is the patient continuing the exercises at home? Are the exercises being performed properly?
Implementing telehealth services combined with less in-person physical therapy visits offers the best of both worlds to both PT providers and patients. Along with remote patient monitoring, the physical therapist can connect with patients multiple times throughout the week to check on their progress. Patients can chat with their doctor online via telerehab technology when they have questions.
In addition to improving the overall success of physical therapy programs in urban areas, utilizing a telemedicine approach to physical rehabilitation will give patients in more remote locations access to the treatment they need to fully recover.
Physical therapists across the country are frustrated by the fact that they are quite limited in how creative they can get with their patients. This is once again due to the time constraints placed upon them, along with the industry standard of “more equals better.” Rather than having to constantly hustle to see all of their patients in person every day of the week, telehealth services will allow PTs to really come into their own individuality and creativity regarding individualized treatment.
Naturally, another big concern for both patients and practitioners is always the cost of healthcare. Implementing telehealth technology into physical therapy practices has been shown to effectively reduce healthcare costs. More and more insurance companies are including telemedicine services as part of their coverage, making the service even more accessible to patients.
Keeping the focus on the successful recovery of the patient that culminates in them returning to many or most of their previous activities is the continued goal of physical therapy programs. Telerehab will allow PTs to redefine post traumatic and post-acute care and better help patients with chronic conditions with new technology that will allow for more engaged, more successful rehab experiences.