Due to the recent pandemic, our health landscape has been quickly shifting. Healthcare professionals are now turning to virtual visits to treat their patients. This not only reduces the risk for themselves and their patients, but creates access and quality care for patients. Physical therapists have been no exception in adjusting their practices in order to accommodate patients through telemedicine. As a physical therapist, I have performed hundreds of these appointments. Here are the benefits of physical therapy telehealth services and the future it holds.
Decreased Risk of Exposure
- Of course, the biggest thought on everyone’s mind at this time is safety while being in public spaces, especially for people who are at greater risk (older age and/or pre-existing conditions). However, just because a pandemic is happening that does not mean people stopped having injuries, disabilities, and pain. In reality, people are likely having more issues with their bodies now due to working from home, being sedentary, and having their community classes or gyms closed down. Telehealth visits have become an essential tool for us to continue to reach these patients without the added risk of being in public areas. I have found that many patients have been incredibly grateful to still be able to continue or start their physical therapy during a crisis.
Compliance at Home
- As we all know, it can be very difficult to keep yourself accountable when trying to change old habits. One of the main advantages of telehealth visits is the ability for the physical therapist to help set up a home exercise program with the patient in their own home. The patient can show the home environment and equipment that they have available to use in the sessions and independently. If a patient does not have any exercise equipment, we improvise with household items such as soup cans, wine bottles, towels or chairs in order to reach our goals.
Combining In-Person and Telehealth Sessions
- Another great advantage for patients is the flexibility to combine telehealth with in-patient physical therapy. There is still no replacing the physical touch of a physical therapist; however, we now have a great option to combine in-person physical therapy with telehealth visits to reap the benefits of both. This may be having two sessions/week of in-person physical therapy to take advantage of manual therapy and the use of machines/equipment. Then doing one session/week via telehealth to support the patient’s home exercise program or to get in an extra session when time is tight.
- Visits can be scheduled any time throughout the day including before/after work or even during your lunch time.
- Patients will not have to spend extra time getting to physical therapy or having to worry about rushing back home to shower before work or the next appointment.
- There is no trudging through the cold, heat, rain, or snow to get to physical therapy.
- Decreased transportation barriers including no automobile access, taking public transportation, no convenient public transportation available, or parking hassles.
- Elimination of expenses including gas, bus/train fares, parking costs, Uber/Lyft fares, and transportation time.
How to get started with a Physical or Occupational Therapy Telehealth Appointment
If you’d like to try a telehealth appointment, contact your closest clinic and let them know you are interested in our telehealth services. The clinic will verify your coverage with your insurance company before your treatment begins. You will then fill out patient paperwork and consent forms for telehealth visits via e-mail. Set up instructions will be emailed to you so you know how to set up the video platform through cell phone or computer camera prior to the start your appointment.
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Don’t take our word for it, hear from our patients! Patients tell their story best and we wanted to share their successful telehealth experiences. Read them here.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.