Telehealth and Physical Therapy

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When someone thinks of physical therapy, what most often comes to mind is treatment in a clinic or in a hospital. The therapist is on hand providing instruction on exercise and function as well as hands-on manual treatment. Perhaps heating pads, ice pack, or electric stimulation is included as well. However, there is another option. Teletherapy has been a means of delivering physical therapy services remotely for some time now, but it has never really been mainstream. It was generally reserved for patients who either could not leave their home due to severe illness or transportation restrictions or for patients who lived in very remote areas that did not allow for reasonable travel to an in person treatment. With the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, however, teletherapy is becoming a very heavily utilized tool.

 

Teletherapy is a means by which a physical therapist and a patient can interact via some sort of electronic device, such as a computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone, in order to discuss symptoms and virtually perform treatment activities. It is helpful to have both video and audio during such visits so that technique can be demonstrated, viewed, and adjusted with verbal and visual cues when performing exercises or functional movement activities. Physical therapists will often mail or email patients home exercise programs with pictures and descriptions, but teletherapy visits allows the physical therapist to view the patient performing the home program. Exercises can be progressed based on patient progress so that each electronic visit might not be exactly the same. Personally, I have had great success using teletherapy with several patients during the COVID-19 crisis, and it’s always nice to keep connected with patients when they cannot physically come to the clinic.

 

Most insurances cover teletherapy services, and many are rapidly making changes to their guidelines to allow for more coverage considering the COVID-19 situation. As of now, Medicare, many private insurances (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United Healthcare, Cigna to name a few), and Workers’ Compensation insurances are covering teletherapy visits. Our clinic has been in constant contact with insurance providers to ensure that we have the most up-to-date information. In this way, we can offer as many of our established patients and any new patients the option of teletherapy services. If the COVID-19 situation has affected your ability to attend in-clinic physical therapy treatments, or if you are unable to come into the clinic for in person treatment for any other reason, I invite you to seriously consider using teletherapy as a means of maintaining consistency with your rehab. We here at Advanced PMR are more than happy to help you through the process. See you soon!

 

Rob Kohutanycz, PT, DPT

Posted in: Physical Therapy

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Monmouth Health and Life Magazine Reader's Choice Award 2016 Winner