Telehealth Physical Therapy A Fad or a Wave of the Future?
Telehealth physical therapy has come the forefront of physical therapy care with the COVID-19 Pandemic causing physical therapy cancellations due to social distancing and the “Stay at Home” bands across the United States. This has caused much anxiety and pressure on the patients end on how they will continue their care, and on our end as physical therapy providers on how to provide care for patients we have only seen in person. As we’ve searched for new platforms to deliver care to our patients; we have also had navigate reimbursement for our physical therapy services as many insurance providers don’t recognize physical therapy services as a reimbursable service. As I write this blog article today there have been many changes mostly for the good that are benefiting both member (patient) and provider. Many insurance companies have started waving member cost sharing responsibilities in regards to deductibles and co-pays/co-insurances during the COVID-19 pandemic. By doing this it allows individuals to receive physical therapy care for aches, pains, and injuries that might have led them to the ER, if telehealth physical therapy was not available. By eliminating cost share responsibilities to member, it is worth exploring telehealth physical therapy to stay on top of your current home exercise program, prevent delays in your rehab progress, or have a new ache or pain evaluated by a physical therapist.
As March closed, I had completed 4 telehealth physical therapy evaluations. I will admit this somewhat foreign for me, as I’ve practice for a long time putting my hands-on people during evaluations and treatment sessions. Also, as most of you know I like to have a lot of fun when we get together for our therapy sessions. I found some of the fun that I can bring to a session somewhat limited with the computer screen between me and my patient, but a challenge is the necessity of all invention. As I conducted my first eval things were a little clunky as we worked through camera set-up to complete the movement assessment portion, making sure the patient moved within the view of their camera. This was important so I could make an accurate assessment of their pain that would than allow for creation of individualized rehab program. As things progressed, I feel that I really hit my stride and it ended with my patient telling me that “if I you hadn’t told me this was your first telehealth physical therapy assessment, I would’ve have assumed you had been doing it for 20 years”. This made me really amazing, and lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I believe my background that is heavily based in movement benefited me when doing this telehealth physical therapy session. It has also found me finding new ways to explain exercises, and movement patterns that have even helped me with my in-person patients.
Telehealth physical therapy may have been formed out of necessity but the staying power is there and will be something that we at Rehab United Seattle will continue to offer post COVID-19. The reason I say that is that traditional physical therapy is deeply rooted in manual therapy and expensive machines, these are two things most people don’t have at home. Our job as physical therapists outside of getting you out of pain is to teach you how to do it at home. Telehealth physical therapy offers this amazing opportunity as we are able to educate you on how to use your personal soft tissue devices at home to mimic our hands, then use our words to coach you through pain free movement patterns that will help your body heal. In no way will telehealth physical therapy ever replace in person therapy sessions, but it will be a great asset for patient and therapist, as patients go on work or holiday trips, move to different areas, or are forced to spend time inside due to health concerns.
If you are interested in doing a telehealth physical therapy session don’t hesitate to reach out to find out more information and how it can benefit you.