Telehealth in physical therapy
Here at Dyaco Medical, we are focused on improving patient outcomes, facilitating better communication between patients and providers and ultimately providing a better patient experience.We believe having excellent, well-trained staff, first-class facilities and equipment fit for purpose are key to enable this as well as a highly profitable practice. Telehealth is a fantastic complement to serve these important aims, and in this newsletter we explore the pros, cons and issues around this hot topic in 2021.
What is telehealth in physical therapy?
Telehealth is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to provide health care services at a distance.This includes the use of electronic mail, video conferencing, telephone, fax, and web-based applications for patient education, clinical consultation, and remote monitoring.
What is a virtual physical therapy session like?
An online physical therapy session enables you to have valuable interactions with a patient remotely when in-clinic visits are not possible or viable. This preserves the needed 1:1 contact with therapist and patient and guidance and feedback for their individualised therapy treatment can still be made.Virtual visits like this can also be paired with an exercise program and other suggestions made for ongoing care between sessions.
COVID-19 and the Advancement of Digital Physical Therapist Practices and Telehealth
According to the Journal of Physical Therapy Education, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty in the University of Minnesota Division of Physical Therapy education program rapidly established an innovative pro bono telehealth physical therapy clinic (TeleMNPT) in response to limited access to outpatient clinics for both patient physical therapy service provision and student physical therapist clinical education needs.
A case report for a patient with vertigo demonstrated not only improved facilitation of student clinical learning, but also an improvement of patient outcomes and quality of life.
5 Reasons to Consider Telehealth Physical Therapy
1. Cost Savings
Telehealth physical therapy provides cost savings for both patients and providers. Patients can now get help from their local physical therapists even if they live hundreds of miles away.
In addition, many insurance companies will pay for this type of service because it is less expensive than travelling long distances. Providers also benefit from reduced overhead costs, since they may be able to reduce the number of full-time staff to cover the same number of patients.
2. Flexible Scheduling
With telehealth, there can be options for patients to schedule appointments at any time convenient for them. They don’t have to wait until an open appointment slot becomes available; instead, they can book online whenever they want.
3. Improved Patient Care
The quality of care provided by telehealth physical therapy is comparable to traditional face-to-face visits. Studies show that patients feel more relaxed during these sessions, which leads to better outcomes.
Dyaco recognises that the best treatment would be in person with quality rehabilitation equipment at your facility. But with constraints such as Covid, lack of availability for physical appointments and other accessibility issues, this option may suit best in certain circumstances.
4. Better Communication
Video communication makes it easier for patients to communicate with their providers. For example, they can ask questions without worrying about being embarrassed. Also, they can see how well their provider listens to what they tell him/her.
More frequent communication with patients improves their experience and gives confidence that their rehabilitation work is progressing their recovery.
5. Increased Provider Satisfaction
Providing high-quality care is important to all health professionals. Telehealth allows therapists to be able to work remotely more often.
This can increase job satisfaction and potentially can keep employing therapists when they need time away, perhaps because of having children or looking after a sick relative. This in turn can greatly improve staff retention facility expertise.
What legal issues are there for Telehealth in Physical Therapy?
The main issue is that telehealth is considered medical treatment, which means that insurance companies do not cover it unless it is part of a hospital stay. However, it still depends on the country and the insurance company.
Although there are clear benefits from utilising telehealth technology, which has grown in popularity greatly since the
Covid-19 pandemic, there are some safety concerns around it:
- Patients may be more likely to fall if they have poor balance due to dizziness or other conditions
- Patients who cannot see themselves performing exercises may not perform them correctly
- If you do not know how your patient performs certain tasks, it could lead to injury
- You might miss signs of pain or discomfort from your patient
Set Up Your Telehealth Equipment
Before setting up your equipment, make sure that you have enough bandwidth on your internet connection. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that travels over a network per second. If there isn’t sufficient bandwidth, then your video calls may be delayed or dropped altogether. If you plan to stream live videos, consider purchasing additional bandwidth as needed.
Video Platforms Used for Remote Physical Therapy
In the past, telehealth E-visits for qualified professionals were only allowed over virtual protected networks and patient portals. This ensured privacy was maintained during the session and that no protected health information could be leaked.
During the coronavirus pandemic, CMS has loosened restrictions on communications and is allowing PTs (and other healthcare professionals) to use non-protected networks to communicate with patients. So, you may be able to have your E-visit video session with your PT over Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.
So when communicating with your patients about remote therapy, instruct them which video conferencing platform will be used. They will need to set up an account with that platform prior to your session.
What equipment do patients need for a telehealth physical therapy session?
Patients will need the following:
- Desktop or laptop computer, tablet or mobile phone with a working camera and microphone
- Reliable internet connection
- Comfortable clothing and space that will allow for movement
- Any exercise equipment prescribed by the therapist
The ideal conditions for using telehealth include:
- A stable environment where it's safe to move around freely without being exposed to germs
- An area free of distractions so that the patient can focus fully on the conversation
- If possible, having access to a private room would help ensure confidentiality
Add value to your existing practice with telehealth
Telehealth has grown considerably since the pandemic through necessity. From this, both opportunities and challenges in using it have emerged. For all facilities and therapists that are focused on what is best for patient outcomes, taking a holistic view of their rehabilitation and each patient's unique circumstances, one thing is clear.
Having an excellent facility staffed by competent therapists using equipment that truly serves a wide range of patients in their rehabilitation is essential.
To use telehealth as a part of your practice where needed, both patients and therapists can benefit when managed correctly.
How Dyaco Medical can help?
Dyaco Medical is focused on helping physical therapists and managers of care facilities to speed up patient recovery and enable more mobility so they can live life to the full.
We see telehealth as a great potential contributor to this objective if managed the right way. What is essential to this complementary technology is for care facilities to have equipment fit for their purpose. All too often, this is just unaffordable for hospital procurement managers and therapists at clinics.
With Dyaco Medical, our medically certified and fit for purpose range of rehabilitation equipment is affordable. So if you feel your current equipment is not serving patients the way you want them to be treated, find out more about how Dyaco Medical is improving patient outcomes.