Is Telehealth Here to Stay? A Look Into the Future of Physical Therapy

The pandemic is dramatically changing how and where individuals connect, and telehealth is becoming a vital resource for medical professionals to continue caring for patients. Telehealth has a tremendous impact on physical therapy. Last year, half of all physical therapy sessions were virtual. As the pandemic wanes and multiple vaccines for COVID-19 become available, it is vital to consider the future of physical therapy regarding telehealth.

Is Telehealth Here to Stay in The Physical Therapy Industry?

Quick Acceleration

The future of physical therapy is accelerating at a fast pace due to the pandemic. Patients view physical therapy differently now as telehealth platforms help physical therapists by offering video and audio-conferencing options. With new legislation and temporary payment exceptions from insurance companies, patients are experiencing telehealth’s convenience, causing a sharp rise in demand.

Patient Expectations

Patients want the latest options available. They expect them. Many are enjoying the convenience of video chatting with a licensed physical therapist over a HIPAA-compliant platform. The results are improving too. A recent study examined 287 patients who underwent knee surgery. Patients using telehealth experienced fewer hospitalizations and were more physically fit than those taking the traditional physical therapy route. When you consider that patients stop attending their therapy sessions due to lack of time, travel distance, and lack of privacy, the comfort of their homes as a physical therapy location becomes attractive.

Telehealth Promotes Technological Advancements

Telehealth promotes the latest in physical therapy technology, such as the remote monitoring of patient progress with devices:

  • The Smart Glove, an information tracking device that tracks motion changes in the forearm, wrist, and digits, is an example of cloud-based data meeting motion therapy.
  • The 3D digital exercise assistant, the VERA, instructs and records patient performance during rehabilitation. It gives insight into recovery progress for patients and physical therapists.
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Although these devices cannot replace a hands-on approach, they provide incredible results when combined with in-person visits.

Favorable Legislation

Legislators often decide the fate of technology adaptation. It appears that legislation for telehealth is favorable. Medicare accepts physical therapists, occupational therapists, and SLPs using audio and video visits for all diagnoses, not just those relating to COVID-19. There is frequent new legislation with additions for telehealth in the practice of physical therapy.

The Future of Physical Therapy

Telehealth’s impact on physical therapy is significant, and it certainly makes patient visits easier during times of crisis. While telehealth is no substitute for in-person physical therapy, the potential for better patient care increases using telehealth. Although some pull-back is probable, patients are now expecting these services, and the demand for them will grow once legislation and insurance coverage expands.

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