Physical Therapy via Telehealth?
With the unfortunate onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients have experienced difficulty receiving the medical care and follow up that is required for optimal health. The medical community has been forced to quickly implement telehealth services to ensure that patients continue to receive adequate care. We, as doctors of physical therapy in this medical community, have transitioned and expanded our interventions similar to other medical professionals, including physicians, to one that will allow patients to continue care without significant regression. Consistent questions that have arisen and often been expressed by patients are “Physical therapists do Telehealth? Don’t you need to be hands on? How do you stretch someone over the internet?”
How does it work?
There is a misconception of the role of a physical therapist that requires better clarification. Physical therapists are medically trained at the doctoral level to not only provide hands on interventions, but to evaluate and diagnose conditions and provide medically necessary treatments based on their diagnosis. They are also well educated in detecting clinical signs and symptoms that may warrant further consultations by a physician. Similar to a telemedicine visit with your physician, your physical therapist can effectively provide these services through telehealth videoconferencing vs. an on-site therapy visit. Your therapist will obtain a thorough medical history, observe the affected region, identify deficits through self-guided movement patterns and self-palpation, make a clinical diagnosis and implement a treatment strategy that best addresses the condition.
What should I expect during a telehealth visit?
For optimal treatment success, the patient is guided by the PT to obtain the best camera position for observation and guidance of the prescribed exercises which allow for progression and modification each session. Your PT will provide detailed instruction in self soft tissue massage and self-stretching in the absence of the hands-on intervention that would be received in the office. It allows for the development of the excellent self-management skills that physical therapists strive to achieve with their patients during their normal course of care.
Physical therapy telehealth evaluation and treatment is certainly a viable option for most patients and is strongly recommended to avoid regression of current symptoms, prevention of deconditioning and other possible conditions due to inactivity, and to provide a timely and effective means of intervention. Now covered by most insurances including Medicare, the benefits of telehealth significantly outweigh the detriments of avoiding treatment altogether.