Telehealth is already entrenched in the medicine and mental health care worlds, and patients are signing up in droves. Patient approval rates for telehealth are skyrocketing, as our society continues to evolve more and more into an “on demand” culture.
But, as hands-on movement specialists, many physical therapists are wondering where telehealth fits into our profession. After all, PT faces the same challenges that have created demand for telehealth in other industries: increased patient load, decreased reimbursements, and clinician burnout, among others.
The answer is that telehealth PT (remotely administered physical therapy treatment) fits into the follow-up visit scheme. A patient might drive 45 minutes to a favored PT clinic, spend an hour for an evaluation, and then drive 45 minutes home. That’s nearly 3 hours of the day that are spent attending PT. Even with 30-minute follow-up visits, the time investment can be daunting. As much as that patient might feel that physical therapy will help them, they may not return for more visits because they simply cannot prioritize PT.
Enter telehealth! While not appropriate for the most physically demanding PT sessions, telehealth can be a clinic’s dream for simple diagnosis with protocol-based rehab. When patients are able to participate in therapy, yet unable to attend in-person appointments, telehealth is the solution.
Therapists can remotely monitor a patient as he or she completes a prescribed home exercise program, giving real-time feedback.
Here are 5 diagnoses that see incredible outcomes through telehealth treatments.
Mechanical Low Back Pain
Bird-dogs, planks, hip stretches, and postural exercises are all easily monitored remotely. A therapist can make simple tweaks to a patient’s form, without the patient needing to take hours out of his or her busy day to attend a therapy session.
Total Joint Replacement Rehab
Highly protocol-based, post-op exercises are ideally suited for patients who undergo hip and knee replacements. While patients would ideally initially attend a higher percentage of in-person sessions, they can taper off and be swapped out for more telehealth sessions.
Often considered a relatively simple diagnosis to treat, plantar fasciitis makes an excellent telehealth diagnosis. Calf stretches, lower quarter strength exercises, and basic drills can be easily administered remotely, saving the patient time and improving clinic revenues.
Cervical Spine Postural Syndrome
Achieving a proper posture can eliminate all sorts of aches and pains throughout the body. Exercise comprises a large part of any rehab program designed to address postural dysfunction. Chin tucks, scapular stabilization, lower traps strengthening, and other exercises can be safely and effectively monitored from a remote location. Additionally, ergonomic workspace evaluations and postural education can be easily delivered remotely.
The general shoulder girdle stability required to correct shoulder impingement disorders can be effectively treated with an exercise-based rehab program. While occasional in-office visits will be beneficial to the patient, a general scapular and rotator cuff strengthening program can definitely be monitored remotely.