This is a blog pulled directly from Michael Gorman (PhD, PT, DMT): an Executive Coach at MEG Business Management. His company, iMOVETelePT supplies a wealth of knowledge on Telehealth and serves as an excellent example of how to implement it.
Why Telehealth Physical Therapy?
by Dr. Michael Gorman, PhD, PT, DMT, FAAOMPT
I know what you’re thinking, really I do! The following scenario is presented to me all the time…
“How can Telehealth for physical therapy work? I mean you do so much with your hands how can it possibly work? I can see it working for a primary care physician, but not for a PT!”
Please read on and learn how Physical Therapy provided by using a Telehealth model may just be the perfect fit for you, your injury, and your lifestyle!
When did Telehealth Physical Therapy start?
In a May 2014 article, Stephanie Stephens discusses the history of Telehealth. The first interactive telemedicine system, using standard phone lines, occurred in 1989. However, physical therapy was a little late to the party. The first mention of physical therapy provided via Telehealth in the literature was 2004. A medical center in Georgia used Telehealth to serve patients living in remote areas.
The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, placed an emphasis on the need to have Telehealth services. In his State of the Union Address in 2011, President Obama discussed the digital age by saying:
“Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls…. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”
The progression of Telehealth physical therapy, compared to physician telemedicine, moved slowly. By the late 2010’s physical therapy and Telehealth became a relevant topic for practitioners and patients. Legislators understood the importance of Telehealth by introducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019.
When did Telehealth Physical Therapy start?
It is important for you to know that Telehealth Physical Therapy is merely another way of delivering physical therapy. A PT doing Telehealth is not a different breed of therapist. We do not have different DNA makeup than our in office colleagues. Pardon my poor sense of humor, but hopefully you get the picture.
The core values of the physical therapist remain the same regardless of the setting provided. Knowledge, communication, problem solving ability, and compassion are all inherent strengths of any skilled physical therapist.
Whether physical therapy is provided in a physical office or a virtual office, the key to determining appropriateness is the initial physical therapy evaluation. The answer to the question is we simply don’t know the appropriateness, of any physical therapy intervention via any delivery model, until an initial evaluation is performed.
When I see a patient for the first time, I will look not only at the site of the injury, but also at adjacent and far reaching body parts. From this evaluation I will determine the appropriateness of virtual care for your condition.
Alan Lee, PT, DPT, PhD is a preeminent figure for physical therapy and the role of PT in Telehealth services. Dr. Lee is the Telehealth lead for the APTA Frontiers in Rehabilitation Science and Technology. In a 2020 Q&A session with the APTA, Dr. Lee discusses the importance of screening out patients to determine if they are appropriate for Telehealth physical therapy.
Regardless of the setting, your physical therapist needs to fully educate you on your condition. This education will empower you to have more control over your condition. Remember, Knowledge is Power!
Patient Education and Telehealth
A strong educational background-regarding the body’s nerves, muscles, joints, and soft tissues- is a core value of the skilled physical therapist. Simply put, the physical therapist is the frontline provider of choice for any injury that limits one’s physical function.
Daniel Seider, PT, MS is the owner of TelePT Solutions. His company is laser focused on helping physical therapy practices successfully implement telehealth into their practice settings. In response to Dr. Lee’s Q&A above, Daniel states the following:
“Our greatest value is our ability to apply our knowledge to improving the life of an individual patient. Sometimes that involves physical contact, but very often the most powerful thing a PT can do is listen and observe. That experience is not diminished by telehealth and some would argue it’s enhanced by the true one-on-one experience of a video visit.”
I am 100% in agreement with Daniel. I will argue that education via telehealth, in a one on one focused setting, is more efficient and effective than education in a brick and mortar clinic with phones ringing and other conversations occurring within ear shot.
How do I choose a Telehealth Physical Therapist?
As you seek out a physical therapist practicing via Telehealth, I want to give you some tips to guide your decision making process. There are many pieces of the puzzle when choosing any provider…let’s make sure the pieces of the puzzle fit together for you!
First of all, you should seek out a Telehealth PT who is 100% focused on providing Telehealth services. Seeing a patient here or there via Telehealth does not lead to excellence with this type of physical therapy delivery model.
Another important tip is for you is to seek out a physical therapist possessing excellent communication skills. You should fully feel respected and empowered by your therapist. If your therapist is not a good communicator or does not show you the compassion you deserve, please turn the other direction and keep searching for your ideal Telehealth provider.
Your physical therapist providing Telehealth services should use modern technology to provide superior physical therapy services. This technology will allow proper evaluation of your condition and proper progression of your rehabilitation. Not only should your provider be using a HIPAA compliant secure portal, but your provider should also have an extensive library of treatment videos to help you down your rehabilitation path!
You now can see the value of Telehealth physical therapy as a viable option for you and your condition! Physical Therapy provided via Telehealth is the present and future of physical therapy for many Americans. In response to the scenario put forth in this blog’s introduction, I know my patients will always benefit greatly from my education, compassion, knowledge, and problem solving abilities! These qualities are only enhanced by providing treatment via Telehealth.
iMove TelePT is here for you. Our advanced physical therapists will get you on the right track, all while you are in the safety and convenience of your own home. For more information, contact our Founder and Physical Therapist Dr. Michael Gorman at firstname.lastname@example.org or message him at (636) 578-3649.
Join us for a discussion with Michael Gorman on this week’s podcast – live tomorrow (Wed 5/13) on our website! Visit our podcast page