Telehealth physical therapy can enable you to receive professional care from the comfort of your own home. No more juggling schedules or sitting in traffic to attend appointments. We’ll discuss telehealth PT advantages and limitations, and how to prepare for your virtual sessions.
- Telehealth physical therapy offers increased accessibility, cost efficiency and personalized care in a relaxed setting.
- Preparation with reliable internet service & compatible devices is necessary to ensure successful sessions.
- Online directories, referrals and asking the right questions can help find an experienced telehealth PT who meets your needs.
Understanding Telehealth Physical Therapy
Telehealth physical therapy, also known as virtual physical therapy, is an innovative approach to traditional PT that leverages technology platforms for remote treatment. This form of online physical therapy treatment allows patients to:
- Connect with a licensed physical therapist through virtual consultations
- Receive real-time feedback
- Access treatment from the comfort of their own homes.
But how does telehealth PT differ from in-person sessions, and what can you expect from this modern alternative?
The Technology Behind Telehealth PT
Participating in a telehealth physical therapy session requires a mobile phone or computer equipped with a camera and microphone and dependable internet service. This setup enables seamless communication between you and your therapist, allowing them to observe your movements, posture, and progress, while ensuring clear audio for effective conversation. Additionally, having appropriate exercise equipment on hand can enhance your telehealth physical therapy experience.
Various telemedicine software options cater to telehealth PT, including downloading an application on your computer or mobile phone or just using a browser like Safari to connect. These technologies not only facilitate video consultations but also enable patient education through online forms and prerecorded information, making them essential components of telehealth services.
Once you’ve set up the needed technology, you’re ready for an uninterrupted telehealth PT session.
How Telehealth PT Differs from In-Person Sessions
Telehealth PT focuses on guided exercises, movement observation, and discussions, much like in-person sessions. However, the virtual nature of telehealth PT may limit the hands-on treatment typically featured in traditional therapy sessions. Despite this, studies have shown that telehealth evaluations are just as effective as in-person evaluations, yielding similar outcomes for physical function and quality of life.
Betsy Cyr, a professor at the University of New England, noted recent research has also demonstrated that telehealth for PT is feasible and convenient for patients and therapists for functional assessments, developmental assessments, and musculoskeletal assessments across age and patient groups (Kronberg et al., 2021; Maitre et al., 2021; Tanner et al., 2021; Wilroy et al., 2021).
Moreover, telehealth PT allows therapists to provide guidance on using rehabilitation equipment and home features, all within the patient’s own environment. This offers a unique advantage over in-person sessions, as the therapist can better understand the patient’s situation and tailor treatment plans accordingly.
Advantages of Telehealth Physical Therapy
Telehealth physical therapy offers a plethora of benefits, from increased accessibility to time and cost efficiency, and personalized physical therapy care in a relaxed setting, making it an excellent choice for those seeking physical therapy services.
With telehealth PT, patients no longer need to worry about traveling to and from appointments or waiting in crowded clinics. Instead, they can focus on their recovery in their chosen environment.
Increased Accessibility for Patients
A standout benefit of telehealth PT is its potential to extend therapy access to a broader patient demographic. For those living in remote areas, with mobility issues, or busy schedules, telehealth PT can be a game-changer. By offering services remotely, telehealth PT eliminates the need for physical access to therapy centers, ensuring that individuals with mobility issues can receive necessary care in their own homes.
Furthermore, some telehealth PT solutions provide you with personalized recorded programs and exercises so they can be done during your own personal time. This means that patients can select anytime they are available such as evenings or weekends, without the added stress of scheduling one on one time with a PT.
Aside from saving on gas and the use of your personal vehicle or public transportation, telehealth PT could also prove more economical with your insurance plan. Many insurance providers offer coverage for virtual sessions, sometimes with lower or no copays compared to in-person visits. Additionally, telehealth PT may require fewer sessions and lower copays, further reducing treatment costs for patients.
Personalized Care in a Comfortable Environment
Patients can enjoy personalized care in the relaxed setting of their homes with telehealth PT. This approach enables therapists to observe patients in their natural environment, providing valuable insights into their daily lives and facilitating the creation of customized treatment plans. The therapist can help the patient problem-solve real-world applications, e.g., how to lift their baby from the crib without stressing their low back, evaluate their home office ergonomic set up, etc.
Additional examples of personalized care available in telehealth PT include tailored home exercise programs, remote monitoring of care plans, and individualized interventions. This level of personalization, combined with the convenience of receiving therapy at home, makes telehealth PT an attractive option for many patients.
Challenges and Limitations of Telehealth Physical Therapy
Like any form of treatment, telehealth physical therapy can have its challenges and limitations. However, these challenges can be overcome with the right resources and support.
Technical Difficulties and Equipment Needs
Successful telehealth PT sessions demand that patients have dependable internet services and compatible devices like laptops, smartphones, or tablets. Technical difficulties, including poor internet connection or audio/video lag, can hinder the effectiveness of telehealth PT sessions.
Overcoming these challenges can be easy by gaining familiarity with the necessary hardware, software, and telehealth platform before your session. This preparation can help ensure a smooth and successful telehealth PT experience.
Suitability for Different Patient Conditions
Though effective for many patients, telehealth PT might not be apt for all conditions or scenarios. Some patients may require more hands-on treatment or certain patient conditions might be difficult to treat via telehealth. In some cases, you may need your first and or second visit to be in their office but additional PT sessions can be remote via telehealth.
Preparing for Your Telehealth Physical Therapy Session
Proper preparation is key to a successful telehealth PT session. Organizing your space and maintaining effective communication with your therapist can pave the way for a seamless and fruitful experience. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your telehealth PT sessions.
Setting Up Your Space
A suitable space for your telehealth PT session should be quiet, well-lit, and free of distractions. Make sure you have enough room to move around and walk, and position your camera at the right height and angle to capture your movements effectively.
Although your mobile device can be used, it’s recommended to use a lap top which can easily be moved and set up in a stationary position. It also has a larger screen which can be helpful to see the therapist or demonstration that are on screen
Communicating with Your Therapist
Transparent communication with your therapist is pivotal for a successful telehealth PT session. Here are some tips to ensure a productive session:
- Discuss your goals and the overall recovery including how many sessions will be required.
- It’s important to discuss your progress and any concerns you may have during your virtual appointments.
- If you are not progressing according to your plan, you will need to reassess where you are with your PT and create an adjusted plan and exercises program.
Insurance Coverage and Payment Options
Insurance coverage for telehealth PT differs among providers, but many plans cover virtual sessions, often with lower or no copays compared to in-person consultations. To determine your insurance coverage for telehealth PT, it’s essential to consult your insurance provider and clarify any questions you may have prior to your first session.
For those without insurance coverage or seeking alternative payment options, cash pay options may also be available for telehealth PT sessions.
What to consider when choosing a virtual physical therapy program:
- Ensure they provide virtual evaluation and ongoing interaction with a dedicated, licensed physical therapist who designs a customized program, individualized to the patient’s specific needs and goals.
- Make sure they have the ability for a therapist to adjust the plan of care based on the patient’s performance.
- Understand how you will communicate any concerns or questions to their therapist and have them answered in a timely manner.
Finding a Telehealth Physical Therapist
- American Physical Therapy Association’s Find a PT directory is a reputable online directory that can help you find a suitable telehealth physical therapist. In the search you can choose “Telehealth” as one of the settings which will help you locate a Telehealth Physical Therapist.
- ATI Physical Therapy has 900+ locations in 24 states and they also provide virtual physical therapy called CONNECT as an option. Their online physical therapy is with licensed physical or occupational therapist and provides high-level PT services in the comfort, convenience, and safety of your home.
- ViewFi Virtual Physical Therapy Program consists of an initial physical assessment reviewed by one of their Sports Medicine Physicians as well as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. The physical Therapist will work with you to design a customized care plan including guided exercises, live virtual sessions, direct communication with your dedicated physical therapist, and unlimited access to your customized ViewFi Physical Therapy Program upon completion of your program.
- Referrals from friends and family or healthcare providers can be a valuable resource in finding the right telehealth PT for you.
Questions to Ask Your Potential Telehealth PT
It’s important to inquire about a potential telehealth PT’s experience, treatment approach, and any particular concerns you might have when choosing one. This will help ensure that they are the right fit for your needs and that you can establish a strong therapeutic relationship for successful treatment outcomes.
By asking the right questions, you can feel confident in your choice of telehealth PT and focus on achieving your physical therapy goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can physical therapy be done virtually?
Yes, physical therapy can be done virtually. It can provide online physical therapy services and telehealth physical therapy is also an option, with consultations taking place via video on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Additionally, asynchronous store-and-forward PT is popular and allows providers and patients to communicate online using forms or prerecorded information.
Is telehealth effective for physical therapy?
Telehealth has been found to be just as effective for physical therapy as in-person care, with the added benefit of increased efficiency. Betsy Cyr, a professor at the University of New England, noted recent research has also demonstrated that telehealth for PT is feasible and convenient for patients and therapists for functional assessments, developmental assessments, and musculoskeletal assessments across age and patient groups (Kronberg et al., 2021; Maitre et al., 2021; Tanner et al., 2021; Wilroy et al., 2021).
Why is telehealth physical therapy important?
Telehealth physical therapy is an important tool that helps providers provide more efficient care, as it eliminates travel time and the need to adjust schedules due to traffic or weather.
What are the benefits of remote physical therapy?
Remote physical therapy provides flexible scheduling and a comfortable home environment, which encourages patient engagement and eliminates the need for issues related to transportation, childcare, or taking time off work.
What equipment is necessary for telehealth physical therapy?
For telehealth physical therapy, you need a device with camera and microphone, reliable internet connection, and a video conferencing platform.
In conclusion, telehealth physical therapy offers a convenient and effective alternative to traditional in-person therapy. By leveraging technology, patients can receive personalized care in the comfort of their own homes, enjoy increased accessibility, and potentially save time and money. While telehealth PT may not be suitable for all conditions or situations, it has proven to be a valuable resource for many patients. So, are you ready to unlock the benefits of telehealth physical therapy and start your journey to better health?