The MedRisk Blog
Imagine you’ve suffered a recent musculoskeletal injury. You’re doing at-home exercises daily, but you’re worried your form may be off. What if instead of driving into the office, all you had to do was reach for your smartphone to videoconference with your therapist?
Advances in technology—in addition to growing needs prompted by the Affordable Care Act and an aging population—have telehealth projected to grow to 1.8 million users worldwide by 2017, according to the World Market of Telehealth. Now, telerehabilitation is becoming a viable option for physical therapists who want to supplement hands-on therapy with remote offerings such as online exercise demos, workout supervision, and secure patient communication tools.
How could telehealth stand in for the hands-on therapy and face-to-face communication integral to successful musculoskeletal treatment? The answer is, simple: it can’t.
Not all patient-provider interactions are currently translatable to telepractice. For instance, massage and manual manipulations are undeniably in-person treatment methods (although solutions like Microsoft Kinect, which uses a 3D motion sensor to allow patients and therapists to interact in real time, may soon change that).
While telehealth may never replace therapy appointments, the accessibility and convenience of a virtual therapist visit make it an ideal option for follow-up treatment, home treatment plans, questions and answers, and consultations with specialists.
Let’s look at few of the primary advantages this method of therapy has to offer.
While it is clear how telehealth could bolster the rehabilitation process, there are still several barriers for physical therapists who want to offer virtual support services. Current challenges include:
Could virtual PT become a mainstream piece of the recovery process? Quite possibly. But until legislations and regulations catch up to advancing technologies and growing patient demand, we must rely on innovative physical therapists to find a way to make telehealth work within the given parameters, to demonstrate the value it delivers to their patients, and to blaze a trail for this much-needed form of support in the rehabilitation world.
“APTA 2014 Recap: Forging Ahead with Telehealth: A Roadmap for Physical Therapists,” last modified February 11, 2014, http://wellpepper.com/apta-2014-recap-forging-ahead-with-telehealth-a-roadmap-for-physical-therapists.
“Telehealth,” last modified September 8, 2015, http://www.apta.org/Telehealth/.
“Telehealth in PT: Expanding Possibilities,” last modified March 31, 2015. https://www.webpt.com/blog/post/telehealth-in-pt-expanding-possibilities.
“Telerehabilitation: Will Telepractice Catch On for Occupational and Physical Therapy?” http://myptsolutions.com/telerehabilitation-telepractice-occupational-physical-therapy/.
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