The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for a lot of changes in our lives. We wish most of them would change back to their pre-pandemic state, but there have been some silver linings. At PhysioPartners, we've recognized telehealth rehab as one of those unforseen benefits. As a clinic focused on high quality, one-on-one patient care, we knew from the start of the pandemic that helping our patients stay healthy and pain-free would mean finding ways to reach them safely at home. Telehealth helped patients avoid losing so much of the progress they had made before lockdown, helped new patients who couldn't have seen a therapist otherwise, and even allowed therapists to see and improve patients' habits at home.
Research done on physical therapy delivered through telehealth showed it to be as effective as in-person rehab for lots of different conditions. It also found that patients typically liked their virtual rehab. Some studies showed satisfaction rates as high as 94%. Our therapists have taken some patients from injury to pain free without ever having to walk into the clinic. For patients that require more hands-on care, telehealth won't replace all in-person visits, but it makes the perfect compliment. We've found great success seeing patients on an alternating schedule between in-clinic and by teleheath. It reduces your risk and your commute, and simplifies staying healthy. Did something new come up? Feel like an exrcise isn't going right? You don't have to dig your car out of the snow or walk through a blizzard to work with your therapist. Telehealth has also helped our busiest patients stay on target. Patients can have a visit with their therapist on their lunch break, or while their kids are at practice, all without worrying about how long it takes to get there.
The pandemic has rushed the adoption of telehealth, but we're still in the early phases. It's hard to predict how telehealth will be used in the future and how it will evolve, but expect it to look a lot different in 5 years. As the software used for telehealth continues to improve, we can expect a more engaging user experience for both patient and provider. Hardware will also continue to improve. The fitness tracker you likely already have will integrate into your telehealth app, letting your PT track your activity, heart rate, and other metrics. Remote stethoscopes, scales and other medical equipment already exist and will continue to become more common as prices decline. To keep kids engaged, therapy could be gamified, with levels to achieve and points to collect as they work hard to improve the health
While telehealth has certainly seen a big advance because of the pandemic, most people still see it as an adjunct to in-person visits. Right now, telehealth tends to be used because it's more convenient than a visit in real life, not because it's better. With advances in software platforms and hardware options, telehealth could evolve to become even more robust and make high quality rehab available to everyone.
If you would like to schedule a telehealth visit with one of our experienced therapists, please call us at (773) 665-9950.