Telehealth is growing in popularity. This up-and-coming care delivery model uses electronic communications to provide medical assessment and care to patients remotely. According to the World Market of Telehealth, this method of care delivery is projected to reach 1.8 million users worldwide by 2017.
With the recent push to switch to Electronic Health Medical Records, you maybe weary of technological learning curves. However, with the growing need for healthcare workers, including rehab professionals, telehealth may very well become the way of the future. It can offer rehabilitation clinics several distinct advantages, but it can also have drawbacks to the delivery of therapy. And if you decide to incorporate telehealth into your practice, you’ll need to adhere to rules and regulations for its inclusion. Here’s what you need to consider to offer a successful telehealth experience to your patients.
The potential benefits of telehealth in physical therapy
According to a recent position paper from the American Physical Therapy Association: “Based on current trends in the physical therapist workforce, the shortage of physical therapists could potentially reach over 27,000 in the U.S. by 2020, greater than other primary care disciplines recognized by the National Health Service Corps. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that many physical therapists live in urban and suburban areas, creating maldistribution of physical therapists throughout the country.”
To this end, telehealth offers a cost effective, efficient means to deliver care to underserved patients. This includes patients who:
- Live in underserved or rural areas, where access to physical therapy may require traveling long distances.
- Have difficulty traveling, due to age, health status or lack of access to transportation.
Since telehealth adds to care efficiency and can help improve communication between providers, it also has potential to add value to rehabilitation practices within Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs).
Potential drawbacks of telehealth
Patients can benefit from the convenience of virtual visits with their therapist using telehealth. However, an important component of therapy is also one-on-one patient/therapist interaction for massage and manual manipulations. So this begs the question — how feasible is telehealth care delivery for occupational and physical therapy? Can it be used to supplement in person visits? Will it help increase patient/therapist interaction, or will patients’ motivation begin to suffer through a lack of human contact?
For more insight into the feasibility of telehealth in the practice of physical and occupational therapy, please visit a previous blog post that addresses these questions.
Resources for moving forward.
When incorporating telehealth into your rehabilitation practice, you’ll want to take several important factors into consideration, including:
- Current regulations.
- Ethical concerns.
- Best practices for implementation.
- Informed consent with patients — for access to telehealth, as well as the option for face-to-face therapy.
- Practice guidelines from state to state.
To provide PTs with more information, the APTA has set up a dedicated telehealth web page to serve as a “toolkit” for those considering the inclusion of telehealth in their practice.
Need to supplement your staff?
With the increasing need for rehabilitation services, telehealth provides a potential solution for rehabilitation clinics to improve patient access to care. However, devoting some of your therapists time to telehealth visits will only makes your therapist’s time even more valuable. If you need to supplement your clinic with additional therapists, PT Solutions is here to help. To learn more about our staffing and recruiting services, please contact one of our therapy consultants.